Cooking with TODAY Show’s Natalie Morales: Empanadas

Video by: Ignacio Torres

In NBC Latino’s third installment of Cooking With Natalie, the Today Show anchor, who secretly loves to cook at home using her Brazilian-Puerto Rican family’s sazón, shares a recipe for “one of my most requested appetizers—chicken empanadas.” A great make-ahead dish when you’re expecting company, the empanadas can easily be frozen and thawed the day you want to serve them. Morales uses pre-made frozen empanada shells (“Why make them from scratch when they’re already available?”) and a savory shredded chicken stuffing, which can easily be switched out for a traditional meat one or a vegetarian one, with spinach and cheese.

Natalie’s chicken empanadas:

Frozen empanada shells (look for them in the Spanish food section)

1 tsp. olive oil

1 1/2 lb. chicken breasts (or ground sirloin, if you want meat empanadas)

1/2 yellow onion, diced

1 small can tomato paste

2 cups chicken stock (if you make beef empanadas, use beef stock)

1 tsp. red wine vinegar

1 small jar of Spanish olives

1 large red potato, diced into small cubes

1/2 cup raisins (these are optional, “but I love the sweet with the salty combination,” says Morales)

1 tsp. oregano

2 tsp. chili powder

Tabasco sauce, for extra kick (optional)

salt and pepper, to taste

1 egg, lightly beaten with 1 tsp. water in a small bowl

1. Thaw the empanada shells at room temperature.

2.  Prepare the empanada filling. In a large sauté pan, heat the olive oil over medium heat, then place the chicken breasts in the pan. Brown on each side for about 5 to 6 minutes, and cook until the juices in the chicken run clear. Remove the chicken from the pan and allow to cool. Using two forks, pull apart the chicken to shred. Return chicken to the pan. Add the onions and brown. Add the tomato paste and chicken stock and red wine vinegar.  Add olives, diced potato and raisins. Season with oregano, chili powder and a dash or two of tabasco. Taste and season with salt and pepper and more chili powder if need be.

3.  Preheat the oven to 350.

4.  Assemble the empanadas. Line a large cookie sheet with parchment paper and sprinkle a dash of flour on the surface. Place a tablespoon or 2 of the filling in the middle of a shell. Use your finger to wipe the beaten egg on the outer egg of the shell (to keep the edges sticky). Fold over the shell, and seal the edges using a fork. Repeat with remaining shells. Brush the tops with the egg wash. On a clean baking sheet, bake the empanadas for about 20 minutes, or until the shells are nice and golden. (For more traditional empanadas you can fry them in canola oil until they bubble and are golden, then drain on a paper towel.) Makes about 10 empanadas.

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