To give credit where credit is due, my husband Ted discovered discos.
Not the John Travolta, dancing queen, glitter ball kind of discos.
The take 'em out of the freezer, stuff 'em and bake 'em, empanadas don't get any easier than this kind.
Made by Goya, discos come in packs of 10, each 5-inch 120-calorie flaky pastry round separated by a piece of plastic wrap. You can find them in the refrigerator aisle of most Latino specialty markets, or at supermarkets in Latino communities.
Store discos in the freezer, and defrost in the refrigerator or at room temperature for at least 20 minutes before using. Or, cut open one side of the package and put in the microwave on defrost for 10 seconds at a time, just until you can separate the circles; then, let the dough sit at room temperature for 10 minutes or so and they are ready to handle.
Stuff them with any type of filling: spicy smoky Argentinean beef, curried pork, rhubarb and strawberries, vegetarian cheese and onion, or tilapia, tomato and olive. Or use the discos like mini-pizzas, topped with Tex-Mex spaghetti sauce and cheese. Or have some fun with apple turnover panini.
Empanadas filled with chicken picadillo
This classic Cuban filling, most often made with beef, gives a sweet-and-sour flavor to the rather bland chicken, but could be made with ground turkey or pork, too. Makes enough for 25 empanadas; can be frozen.
1 Tbsp vegetable oil
1 medium onion, peeled and diced
1 large green bell pepper, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 lb extra lean ground chicken
1/4 cup tomato sauce
Pinch of cinnamon
1/4 cup sliced, stuffed green olives
1/4 cup raisins
1 Tbsp capers
2 Tbsp white vinegar
1/4 tsp sugar
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
Heat the oil in a large frying pan over medium heat. Sauté onion and green pepper until the onion is translucent, about 3 minutes. Add garlic and cook 2 minutes more. Add the chicken and break it up well. Stir in the remaining ingredients, reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer for 20 minutes or until the sauce is a thick consistency and no liquid remains. Set aside to cool, or refrigerate (or freeze) for later use.
Remove discos from the freezer and set on the countertop to soften.
Preheat oven to 425°F. Line a rimmed baking sheet with a Silpat (silicone liner) or parchment paper. Place a small bowl of cold water on your work surface.
Beat one large egg with one teaspoon of water (egg wash), and set aside.
Set out one disco. Place a heaping Tbsp of filling in the center. Wet your finger with water and run it around the edge of the disco. Fold the dough over to make a half-moon shape. Press the edges to seal, then take a fork and press into the dough all around the folded edge. Place the empanada on the baking sheet. Make the remaining empanadas, then, using a brush, paint each with a bit of the egg wash.
Bake in the middle of the oven for 11-12 minutes or until lightly browned. Serve hot or at room temperature. Cooked empanadas can be frozen and reheated in a 350°F oven.
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