Pastel de Pollo

Chicken Pie

For parties and saint’s days, Cuban Americans often order a pastel de pollo from their neighborhood bakery or grocery store to serve as part of a festive buffet. It is also sold by the slice at Cuban cafés and bakeries. I like to serve this intriguing sweet and savory pie as the entrée for a light lunch accompanied by a green salad and a glass of chilled white wine.

Ingredients

For the Filling

  • 2 to 3 clove garlic
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon ground cumin
  • ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ½ cup fresh bitter orange juice, or ¼ cup regular orange juice and ¼ cup fresh lime juice
  • pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • ¼ to 1⁄3 cup olive oil
  • cups chopped onion
  • 1 cup diced green bell pepper
  • 1 cup tomato sauce
  • 1 cup dry sherry or white wine
  • 2 tablespoons brine-packed capers, drained
  • cup sliced pimiento-stuffed green olives
  • cup raisins
  • cup toasted slivered almonds

For the Crust

  • cups all-purpose flour
  • ¾ teaspoon salt
  • teaspoons baking powder
  • tablespoons sugar
  • 1 (12-ounce) package cream cheese, softened
  • ¾ cup ( sticks) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 large egg, beaten (optional)

Method

Make the filling: Crush the garlic in a garlic press. With a fork, mash the garlic, together with the salt, cumin, pepper, and cinnamon, to a paste. Stir the garlic paste into the bitter orange juice. Place the chicken breasts in a large glass mixing bowl and pour the marinade over them. Cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour. Remove the chicken and pat it dry with paper towels. Reserve the marinade.

Heat the oil in a large, heavy skillet over medium heat and add the chicken; cook for 4 to 5 minutes, until browned on both sides. Stir in the onion and bell pepper and sauté over medium-low heat until the onion is translucent, about 3 minutes. Stir in the tomato sauce, sherry, capers, olives, raisins, and the reserved marinade. Cover the pan, reduce the heat, and simmer for 30 minutes.

Remove the filling from the heat and let it cool while you make the crust. When cool, remove chicken, shred into bite-sized pieces, and return it to sauce.

Make the crust: Sift the flour, then sift it again with the salt, baking powder, and sugar. Set aside. In a large bowl, use an electric mixer to combine the cream cheese and butter until well blended. Gradually add the flour mixture and beat until smooth.

Divide the dough into 2 equal balls. Place each on a floured square of waxed paper and roll it into a circle about ¼ inch thick and 13½ inches in diameter. Cover each round with another sheet of waxed paper and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 425°F.

Place one circle of the dough in a 10-inch pie pan so that 1 inch of the dough hangs over the sides and spoon in the filling. Sprinkle with almonds. Top the filling with the second circle of dough. Fold the edges together and seal with the tines of a fork. Make a few slashes in the top crust for steam to escape. If you like a shiny crust, brush the top with beaten egg.

Bake for 10 minutes. Lower the oven temperature to 350°F. and continue baking for 30 to 40 minutes more, until the crust is golden. Serve warm.