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Tomato sauce (Recipe: turkey or chicken picadillo empanadas)

Turkey or chicken picadillo empanadas

One quirky thing to know about tomato sauce:

In Australian slang, tomato sauce is a dead horse. (Oh, the things I learn on the Internet!) I don't know why, since tomatoes and horses don't seem to have much to do with one another, so I hope one of you can fill in the blank. In my New England pantry, tomato sauce, either home-canned or store-bought, is a staple; it's the consistency of baby food, with the concentrated essence of tomato flavor. You can make it, or buy it, with onions and garlic and herbs, but I love plain tomato sauce for its versatility.

Cooking or baking?

Unopened, cans will keep in the cupboard until their use-by date. Leftovers from an open can should be transferred to a plastic or glass container, and refrigerated for up to one week.

More about tomato sauce.

Turkey or chicken empanadas

Turkey or chicken picadillo empanadas

A classic Cuban filling, picadillo livens up chopped cooked turkey or chicken in a sweet-and-sour way, and the empanadas can be made well ahead and baked off just before serving. This recipe makes enough for 25 empanadas; leftovers make a satisfying filling for quesadillas.


1 Tbsp vegetable oil
1 medium onion, peeled and diced
1 large green bell pepper, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 lb chopped cooked turkey or rotisserie chicken
1/2 cup tomato sauce
Pinch of cinnamon
1/4 cup sliced, stuffed green olives
1/4 cup raisins
1 Tbsp capers
1/2 cup cooked (or canned and drained) black beans
2 Tbsp white vinegar
1/4 tsp sugar
2-3 Tbsp Tabasco sauce (I used mild green jalapeño Tabasco; if you use regular hot sauce, start with 1-2 Tbsp)
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 package of 10 discos


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 chopped turkey or chicken, then stir in the remaining ingredients, reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer for 15 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.

In another bowl, beat one large egg with one teaspoon of water to make an egg wash, and set aside.

Set out one disco. Place a heaping tablespoon 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 firmly 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.

[Printer-friendly recipe.]

More recipes in The Perfect Pantry:
One-one-one spaghetti sauce
Cuban shrimp in savory sauce
Lentils and brown rice
Chicken and shrimp jambalaya
Barbecue sauce

Other recipes that use tomato sauce:
Penne pasta with meat sauce, from Simply Recipes
Spaghetti with tomato sauce and myzithra cheese, from Mama's Taverna
Kalyn's garden tomato pasta sauce with Italian sausage and basil, from Kalyn's Kitchen
Healthy whole wheat spaghetti with meat sauce, from This Mama Cooks!
Cuban style lengua de res, from The Masa Assassin

Disclosure: The Perfect Pantry earns a few pennies on purchases made through the Amazon.com links in this post. Thank you for supporting this site when you start your shopping here.


Do you know rhyming slang? Often originating in a rhyme, with time many have become abbreviated so the origin is no longer clear. We use some of them in NZ. "Have a butcher's" means "take a look" but it was once "butcher's hook".


We don't use dead horse here and it appears the origins aren't clear:


I think the "dead horse" is a bit of rhyming slang for "tomato sauce"

That being said, I don't know any Australians that actually talk like that nowadays.

So delicious looking! In elementary school one of our hot lunch rotations was what they called "meat pies" which were little folded over pastry circles filled with some kind of ground beef mixture. I loved them, and your photo reminds me of how I remember them looking. (Oh the good food we had at school when I was a kid!)

I once made these with a seasoning packet from all-natural brand "Nueva Cocina" (picadillo beef seasoning); but their version has raisins in it and that was just too weird for my husband!
oh well! I tried!

Robyn and Vivzilla, thanks so much. I knew there would be readers who could help clear this up!

Kalyn, I honestly can't remember ever having good food at school when I was a kid, though I do remember that the "cafeteria ladies" really cooked, instead of heating up processed food.

Carol, of course you can omit the raisins, though they are traditional. Or you can feed your husband something else and keep all of these for yourself!

The perils of google. Tomato sauce is what you call ketchup.

In fact I'd say it was the other way around... Please pass the dead horse = please pass the tomato sauce.

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