In some parts of Mexico, these are also known as “Panuchos,” tacos and the original Mexican quesadillas. As they would usually be filled with cheese.
The most wonderful thing about empanadas is their versatility. They can be made with all-purpose flour or corn masa harina, and can be baked, fried, and even cooked on the stove top! The first time I made these, they were fried. I mean, who doesn’t love that masa harina dough just out of the fryer, all crispy and delicious! When I was in Mexico a few years ago, one of my primas (cousins) brought a dish to the family reunion. She said they were empanadas “estilo San Luis Potosí,” made like in San Luis Potosí, Mexico: brushed with oil and cooked on a hot comal (Mexican griddle). They were delicious!!
In a large skillet, heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil to medium heat. After 2 minutes, add the onions, garlic, and red bell peppers. Cook for 5 to 6 minutes. Add the remaining ingredients for the chicken filling. Stir well to combine and bring to a simmer. Taste for salt and continue cooking for 20 minutes or until it reduces and becomes thicker. Remove from heat and let cool.
In a medium bowl, add the masa harina and salt. Gradually add in the warm water until the dough forms and no longer sticks to your hands. Make 15 dough balls, about the size of a golf ball. Transfer them to a plate and cover with plastic wrap. Set aside.
Preheat a large nonstick griddle pan or skillet to medium/high heat for about 4 to 5 minutes. Line a tortilla press with a heavy plastic bag, cut to fit the size of press. Press one dough ball at a time to about 4½ inches wide. Fill one half with about 2 to 3 tablespoons of chicken filling. While still on the plastic, fold over to seal the empanada and gently pinch to seal edges. Brush one side of empanada with oil and transfer (oil side down) onto hot griddle.
Once griddle is full, brush the tops of empanadas with oil. Use a spatula to slightly flatten and press down. Turn empanadas after a few minutes or until you get some golden brown spots. Cook for another minute or two on other side. If they seem a bit dry, brush with a little more oil. They can be deep fried as well. Serve right away and garnish with your favorite homemade or store-bought salsas.
If you do not have a tortilla press, press the dough ball in between a heavy plastic or wax paper using a flat bottomed plate on a flat surface.