T's family has an annual January party loosely based on the Seinfeld episode about Festivus. Over the years it has become a Mexican Fiesta rather than an opportunity to air one's grievances, which is fine with me. Nothing beats the post-Holiday blahs better than warm tortilla chips and tomatillo-avocado sauce.
A Fellow Foodie Friend recently told me about her dislike for unnaturally fusioned foods. After our discussion I decided against bringing Mexican Pizza to this year's Fiesta, and opted instead for these open-faced empanadas. Sure, most empanada recipes call for a crust that is similar to pie dough, but I work better with yeast breads. This recipe calls for a risen dough of white flour and coarse cornmeal. Although technically a fusion, it marries the best of empanadas to a slow-rising crust.
The little rounds were easy to eat without utensils (always a positive whether you are a socializing at a party or cheering for your team in the playoffs) and have enough heat and complexity to please me, yet don't scare off a typical delicate Minnesotan palate.
2 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast (equal to one package)
1 teaspoon honey
2/3 cup warm water
1 1/3 cup bread flour
1/3 cup cornmeal (or masa for a smoother dough)
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup mozzarella, shredded
Dissolve yeast in honey and water; set aside until bubbly. Combine flour, cornmeal, and salt; add yeast mixture. Knead until dough forms a very smooth, although sticky, ball. (For convenience, use a stand-up mixer with dough hook or process with metal blade, until sides of the bowl are clean and the dough forms a ball.)
Pour a bit of olive oil in a clean bowl; turn dough ball in oil so that all sides are oiled. Cover dough and allow to rest in a warm place 2 hours or until doubled in size. Separate dough into 16 to 18 very small balls (about the size of a golf ball); set on greased baking pan about 2 inches apart. Cover and allow to rest about 1 hour.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Use your palm and fingers to flatten each ball into 2-1/2 inch round, keeping small ridge on outside rim. Place small amount of cheese in each circle. Bake 6 rounds at a time until cheese is melted and crust is golden, about 10 minutes. Remove from oven and continue with recipe below, or top with ingredients of your liking and bake additional 10-15 minutes.
Chipotle Chicken Filling:
1 poached chicken breast, diced
2 chipotles (canned in Adobe sauce), chopped
1/2 teaspoon cumin
garlic, lime juice, salt
1-2 cups prepared salsa
Queso fresco, crumbled
Parmesan cheese, shredded
Anaheim chili, cut into thin rounds
Combine chicken, chipotle, and cumin; season to taste with garlic, lime, and salt.
Top each empanada round with enough salsa to cover melted cheese. Add a generous amount of the chicken, queso fresco, and Parmesan; crown with one or two chili rounds. Bake until cheeses are melted, 10-15 minutes. Serve hot, garnished with cilantro and lime wedges.