Angry Em-pie-nada

COOKING ADVENTURE #86: Chicken Enchilada Empanadas

Chicken Enchilada Empenada

What I learned this week is that no matter how cathartic cooking may be for some, for me, it isn’t a good idea to attempt if I’m in a bad mood. There are sharp objects, often hot pots and pans, and little space available to spread everything out. After having a particularly bad day, I decided “What the hell? What more could possibly go wrong?” It’s best not to ask those questions. I had found a pretty spectacular recipe that was just calling my name. I’ve been craving Mexican food for a couple weeks and this seemed like just the thing to take care of that hankering. Well, it would have been if I’d paid a little more attention to what I was doing. But we all know what it’s like, to be so angry that you’re trapped in your head and can’t step away from it. I tried a number of times. My declaration of “I AM NOT GOING TO LET THIS EMPANADA BEAT ME!” is what finally made me put my rear in gear and pound these things out. And now, the terrible tale…

I’ll admit, this isn’t exactly what I had in mind for a Valentine’s Day Cooking Adventure. I had honestly forgotten all about the dreaded holiday and therefore, was caught off guard. I’ve had a habit of making French Toast in past years and figured that yet another cake or dessert recipe would be a little boring. So, what better to surprise someone with than a random enchilada recipe? Truth is that the only one I have to share this recipe with is my cat, who would have been more than happy to indulge in any kind of chicken recipe. Too bad it wasn’t all that good…which is entirely my fault.

I’d gone to the store a couple days before to get all of the ingredients so that I’d be ready later in the week. On the particular day I decided to attempt this recipe, UPS had postponed delivering a package of mine that I’d been waiting for (a package that they later LOST…an item that was the last in stock from a company that I was exchanging a defective item through), I’d gotten my first bad rating on a book, and I was a nervous wreck about the next morning when I’d be doing my first radio interview. I ended up saying “screw it”, and marched into the kitchen to attempt what I hoped would be a Cooking Adventure miracle. Unfortunately for me, these happenstances are rare.

I first had to cook the chicken. I’m pretty sure that I was supposed to not add any spices to it or if I had to, just a little salt and pepper. I just don’t like cooking chicken without some kind of flavoring. I grabbed my bottle of curry and sprinkled it generously over the chicken as it sizzled in the pan. It then occurred to me that curry and enchilada sauce probably wasn’t a good combination of flavors. It was too late to do anything at that point so I just pushed on with the recipe.

I pulled a bowl out of the cabinet, cracked open the can of enchilada sauce, and poured it in. Finding the enchilada sauce in the store was one of the most aggravating tasks I’ve ever had. I wasn’t sure if it was something that I’d have to make with powder on the stove, if it came in a can or a jar, or what. I spent nearly ten minutes scouring the baking and international food aisles in search of the elusive enchilada sauce. Imagine my surprise when I found it in a tiny can on the bottom shelf, pushed back into the shadows of the international food aisle. If it had been a scavenger hunt, I would have gotten major points for that one.

After the chicken was all cooked, I started shredding it and adding it to the bowl of enchilada sauce. The cat was, of course, right at my feet, squeaking and mewling for a small taste. Curry and kitties don’t mix. I didn’t let him have any. He decided to retaliate by taking a large dump in the litterbox. This was concluded by him getting some of said dump on his hind paws, and then in a frenzy, spreading that all over the place as he ran around like a nutter. Not fun to clean up. And now my apartment smelled like chicken and cat crap.


I returned to the kitchen later, my mood now worse than before and resumed my tireless efforts at the recipe. It was here that I was supposed to take out my pastries and cut them down to the correct size. I opened my refrigerator and scanned the shelves. Huh. Funny. It wasn’t there. I checked the freezer, the fruit and vegetable boxes below, and the shelves again. Still nothing. I remembered grabbing a can of Pillsbury dough out of the fridge at the store…and then putting it back. I remembered I was going to look at the other pastries in the section across from the deli on the other side of the store and see if they had the exact thing that I needed. I never did though. I’d forgotten. Which left me up a creek without a paddle. There was something I could use though…

Glancing back into the fridge, my eyes fell on the pie crust box on the bottom shelf. I’d had this pie crust for a while. I’d wanted to make a chicken pot pie several weeks ago and just never got around to it. I wasn’t sure how it was going to taste but I figured, “How bad can it be?” So, I tore open the box, pulled one of the pie crusts out and ripped the plastic from it. As I tried to roll it out, the pie crust broke apart. That’s why you let it warm up before you try to roll it out. But being as impatient and hungry as I was, I didn’t want to have to wait. By the time I’d fully rolled it out, it was in about thirteen different pieces. I think I began swearing at this point.

I gathered the pie crust together and began reforming it into a big ball of dough, warming it with my hands. I let the ball of dough sit there, the first thoughts of ditching the recipe and ordering take-out beginning to surface in my head. I didn’t give in though. I wrenched my rolling pin out of the cabinet and declared my intent to finish the recipe whether it was successful or not. Now the problem of space came into play. I have a very, very small kitchen. This space includes one small section of counter between the stove top and the refrigerator and that’s all. My sink was full of dirty dishes as was some space next to the sink and some space on the stove top. So, I had to improvise as I attempted to flatten out the dough again. This basically meant that I used my pizza stone as a flat surface to do this. And because of my hatred of flour (see earlier Cooking Adventures for explanation), I just smooshed the dough down and then peeled it off the roller whenever it got stuck.

When I finally got to the point where I figured it was flat enough, I went to grab a cup from the cupboard to cut round pieces out for the empanadas. Because of the limited space, I had moved my aloe plant up on top of the microwave. It happens to now sit in front of the cup cabinet, blocking its access. Warning: laziness is a huge factor in what happens next. I decided that I’d sneak the cabinet open without having to move the plant because…I didn’t want to have to move anything. Just as I had it open enough and was reaching in to grab a mug, the aloe plant flew out of the pot and landed on the stovetop, distributing clods of dirt all over the place, including across the dough I’d just rolled out.

The aloe plant has no roots for some reason and this isn’t the first time its fallen out of the pot. And yes, it’s still alive. Don’t ask  me to explain it. I don’t understand. Point is that now, amidst another string of cussing, I had to redeposit it in its pot and then flick the dirt off the dough and the pizza pan, a task that only wasted more time and made me even angrier. Once that was taken care of, I cut the dough up, flattened the circles a little more and spread them out on a cookie sheet nearby. The cookie sheet was supposed to be lined with wax paper. All I have is parchment paper (the biggest waste of money I’ve ever spent as far as materials go). I used tin foil instead. I balled the remaining dough up and flattened it out again, cutting two more circles out. I abandoned the rest of the dough and moved back to the enchilada sauce-soaked chicken.

I took a small helping of chicken and placed it in the center of each circle. Then, I grabbed some shredded cheese with taco flavoring and sprinkled a little on top. Now came the point of closing each one. Easier said than done. The original recipe talks about using an egg wash to seal them. Too much extra work for me. I was sure that they would stay closed if I just pressed the edges together enough, which is exactly what I did. One of them didn’t want to cooperate. Guess I put a little too much chicken inside of it. No matter. They already looked like hell. I added a little shredded cheese to the tops of each one and then pushed them into the oven to bake at 375 for 20 minutes.

It took forever for that time to go by. I was starving now and about as close to a breaking point as I’ve been in a while. After tackling the dishes, I pulled the pan of em-pie-nadas out and frowned. They looked pretty sad. I decided to pretty them up a little bit with some salsa and sour cream. Getting them off the tin foil was a whole other battle and didn’t go as swimmingly as I was hoping it would. I nearly took wads of tinfoil with each empanada just because they stuck so terribly. After throwing a bunch of condiments on them so that they could no longer be distinguished as failures, I grabbed a fork and dug into my first one.

Sweet pie crust doesn’t mix with chicken enchilada sauce. Nope. It wasn’t enough to keep me from eating them all within ten minutes though. When you are that hungry, nothing matters. It’s a shame that the recipe turned out as it did. I’m sure if I’d had the correct pastry, wasn’t in such a bad mood, and had more space available to me, I could have rocked this recipe. Perhaps one day in the future, I’ll give it a try.

Next week This week on Cooking Adventures, I’ll be tackling Asian Lemon Chicken Tenders. It’ll be the first time I’ve ever attempted to fry something…I’m slightly afraid of what might happen. Stay tuned!



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