Cuban Chicken Pie is totally different from what we non-Cubans think of as chicken pie…there’s no cream, no carrots and celery and the crust is totally different, more cake-like, than short and flaky. This is for The Honorary Gal-Pal and did I mention that it’s delicioso? In Miami, the bakeries sell these pies ready-made, but I’m not there yet, so I needed to create this here in Connecticut and I’m glad I did. A group of good friends were joining us for a “farewell to Connecticut” evening, and we wanted to let them get a taste of Miami, hoping they will find their way there soon. The Goddess used chicken in this filling, which is what she normally uses. However, The Goddess being the timely creature that she is, decided to post this post-Thanksgiving, because turkey would work like a charm instead of the chicken. Aren’t we clever, though?
I love this crust. It’s totally different from regular pie crust, but it just works so well with this filling and many other filling options, as well. This crust is made with milk and oil; it practically flies together. Knead it a bit, wrap it and leave it for at least an hour, but overnight is even better. As you can see there’s a nice yellowish hue to the dough. The Goddess has some annatto oil, which is a deep orange color. She uses 1 tablespoon of the annatto oil, as part of the oil. It doesn’t affect the flavor, but just adds a richness to the color. However, it isn’t necessary at all. The egg wash will add some depth of color and a nice glaze, too.
The filling begins with a sofrito, that mixture of onion, garlic and bell peppers, that is the essential base for some many Cuban dishes. You sauté the whole mess of finely chopped veggies in some olive oil. This is the starting point for many Cuban dishes. In this case you will add some herbs and spices, wine, sherry, chopped and cooked chicken (or turkey!), mixed with some other good things tossed in for good measure. Cool the mixture and toss it into the fridge until you’re ready to make the pie and you’re life just got easier. You know The Goddess is all about easy (careful here…!); she likes to make the filling ahead because she thinks it gets better after it sits in the fridge, but she could be imagining all this, so you should decide for yourself.
Pastel de Pollo Cubano
For the pastry:
- 2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 1 tablespoon baking powder
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/2 cup whole milk at room temperature
- 1/3 cup canola oil
- 1 large egg, beaten with 1 tablespoon of water (egg wash)
For the filling:
- 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 yellow onion,very finely chopped
- 1 medium red bell pepper, stemmed, cored, seeded, and very finely chopped
- 3 large garlic cloves, peeled and very finely minced
- 1 dried bay leaf
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon smoked sweet paprika
- 1/2 teaspoon Mexican oregano, crushed between his fingers
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1 cup diced tomatoes, canned or fresh, with their juice
- 2 tablespoons dry sherry
- 1/4 cup dry white wine
- 3 cups cooked chicken, very finely minced (1 whole chicken breast)
- 1/2 cup frozen whole kernel corn, unthawed
- 1/2 cup green olives, pitted and sliced
- 3/4 cup finely chopped hearts of palm (optional)
To prepare the pastry: In a large mixing bowl, dump in the dry ingredients. Make a well in the middle of the flour, pour in the milk and oil; stir to blend. Drop out on the counter and knead by hand to form a smooth dough, 3 to 5 minutes. Shape the dough into two round discs, (one slightly large than the other) wrap in plastic, and refrigerate at least 1 hour or overnight.
To prepare the filling: Heat the oil over medium heat in a deep, heavy skillet. Add the onion, green pepper, and garlic; sauté until fragrant, 3 to 5 minutes. Add the spices, tomatoes, wine, sherry and bay leaf. Bring to a simmer, lower the heat and continue to simmer gently for 5 minutes. The mixture should still have some liquid, and the veggies should be softened. Add the chicken, stirring until well combined. Stir in the corn kernels, olives and hearts of palm, if using. Set aside to cool to room temperature (mixture can be prepared 24 hours ahead and refrigerated); remove and discard the bay leaf.
Preheat the oven to 425° F.
To make the pie: Roll out the slightly larger disc on a lightly floured board to a 11-inch round, about 1/8 inch thick; this will be the bottom crust. Fit into a 9-inch pie plate. Fill with the cooled (or cold) chicken filling, brushing the edge with water. Roll out the remaining dough and place on top of the filled pastry, pressing down along the edge to seal. Brush the egg wash over the top crust. Make 4 slits in the center of the pie. Place in the preheated oven and bake until lightly golden, 20 to 25 minutes. Allow to cool to room temperature; slice and serve.
NOTE: This is excellent served, cut into small slivers, as a first course or on a buffet table. You may add sliced, hard-boiled eggs to the mixture when filling the crust.
Pastel de Pollo Cubano Recipe©Marcia Lahens 2015. All rights reserved.
This is equally good with cooked turkey or use the Mexican Picadillo as the filling. If you want to make the whole pie, but are concerned about eating it all at once, wrap each piece well in plastic, then in foil and freeze them. Thaw in the fridge and reheat on 50% power in the microwave. The Goddess thinks you could make hand pies with this dough and it would work beautifully…she’ll try it later and let you know.
As promised to the The Honorary Gal-Pal, here’s the recipe. If The Goddess was any sort of decent friend she would make you a whole heap of pies, but it appears you are on you own…enjoy!
Although I am Cuban I have never made this dish. Think I will try it though. Thanks!
The Gourmet Goddess said:
Have fun with it. Please let me know how you like it.
Hi! I’ve made these pastels twice now and keep running into the same issue: when I go to roll out my pie dough, it is incredibly crumbly and constantly tears while I’m trying to roll it. It’s bad enough that I make a little extra dough to use for patching so I can actually seal the filling. I’ve kneaded it for up to 10 minutes at one point, but it never reaches a smooth consistency and will tear/split while kneading. Do you have any advice to remedy this?
Also, something I did the second time that worked out pretty well: make a double batch of dough and a little extra filling. Divide the dough into eight equally-sized disks before wrapping and refrigerating them. Then when you fill the pies, instead of stacking one disk on top of another, fill each one halfway, apply the egg wash and fold it in half. When you bake them you end up with many smaller half-circle pies that make a really good lunch to take with you!
The Gourmet Goddess said:
Cesar, I’m so sorry you’re having difficulty with this dough, as I have always found this dough to be incredibly easy to work with. Let’s see if we can fix this problem. A few things come to mind:
1. Flour-As you probably know, humidity affects how flour absorbs liquid. If you find the dough is crumbly, try adding a little extra milk, 1 tablespoon at a time; you may need to add several tablespoons. It’s important to use all-purpose flour, as opposed to bread flour. As for kneading, be careful not to overknead, as that can toughen the dough. Kneading “briefly” means no more than about 2-3 minutes; just until it comes together. The dough can look a little shaggy, because it seems to “even out” when it rests.
2. It’s very important to let the dough rest. Wrap it tightly in plastic and refrigerate for at least 1 hour, before you roll out the dough.
3. Roll the dough out between sheets of parchment or plastic wrap. Some people find it easier to handle the dough and place it in the pie plate.
4. Remember to roll the dough from the center outward, and gently push the edges together. Usually you can push the edges together reasonably well.
That’s a good idea to make a double batch; this dough and filling make terrific empanadas. When you made the double batch, did you have trouble with the dough?
I hope this info can help. If you need futher info, don’t hesitate to ask…we’ll figure this out together, okay? I’ll see if I can make a batch tomorrow and see if I have any trouble.
The Gourmet Goddess said:
Cesar, I’m sorry it took so long for me to get back to you. I did make the dough again, an I found that it worked. Weather does affect how much liquid flour will absorb, so you do have to make adjustments at time. For example, when I make pastry in the winter, I usually have to add slightly more, because there isn’t as much humidity. I know some people keep their flour in the freezer and that will also affect liquid absorption. Have you made the recipe again? Keep me posted. We’ll solve this, so you can get this to work for you, as it is a lovely pastry.