Chicken Calzones – Recipe

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Latino meets Latin in this variation of the pastry pie. 

What’s the difference between Empanadas and Calzones?

The simple answer is, yeast.  This may be an oversimplification and I’m sure any number of people can go on at great length to mention other differences.  But in the end, yeast.  Empanadas are stuffed pastry pies made with a unraised dough and calzones use yeast to raise the dough.  The empanadas recipes on this blog are fried.  Calzones are baked.  However empanadas can be baked also.  The fillings are typically different.  The differences are based on the customary foods and flavors of the country making the pie.  However, if you search the web for recipes for either, you’ll find it fair game to stuff any number of weird and sometimes not so wonderful sounding fillings in either.  In fact, the Greek spanakopita is not too far in concept from the empanadas or calzone.  This is just one more proof that our DNA is much more alike than different.

This calzone experiment, and one of them truly was an experiment as the picture will attest, didn’t come out the way I expected.  I expected to end up with something tasting like a rolled up pizza.  I ended up with something more like a heavy bread surrounding the filling.  I’ll blame myself for this, and possibly the 10-year-old flour I was using.  But truthfully, I’ve never eaten a calzone before this.  For all I know, this could be the way all calzones are.

The dough

3 to 3.5 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon sugar

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 cup of warm water (110 degrees)

1 or 2 tablespoons olive oil

1 package (.25 ounce) fast acting yeast or regular  yeast

1 pair of strong wrists

Mix 3 cups of flour, salt, fast acting yeast and sugar together in a fairly large bowl.   If using regular yeast, follow directions on package.  Create a depression in the dry flour mix.  Add the wet ingredients (water, oil) to the center of the flour.  Stir with fork until all flour is moist.   Dust a counter top with some of the remaining flour.  Knead the wet flour mix on the floured surface until well blended.  While kneading, if the flour seems too moist and sticky, sprinkle a little flour on the dough and continue kneading.  When flour is formed into a well-defined ball which is not very sticky on the surface,  place the ball in a large mixing bowl coated with some olive oil on the inside of the bowl.  Cover the bowl with a towel or loose lid to keep moist.  Place in a warm place for about 45 minutes.  To make a warm place, you can turn on your oven for a few minutes until the air in the oven feels slightly warm, not hot.  Turn the oven off.   Place the dough in the warm oven to rise for about 45 minutes.  Leave the oven door open if you think the oven is too hot.  While the dough is rising, prepare the filling below.  After about 45 minutes remove the bowl.  Uncover the dough.  The dough should be about twice the size it was before.  That’s what the yeast does.  Take the risen dough from the bowl, place on the floured counter or other surface and knead the dough until it shrinks again in size.  Place the shrunken dough back in the oiled bowl, cover and place back in the warm place for about another 45 minutes.  The time spent while the dough rises, gives you time to finish the filling and start to cleanup.

The Filling

2 chicken breasts, thawed – about 6 to 8 ounces

1/2 of a large green pepper, chopped coarsely

1 medium onion, chopped coarsely

about 6 broccoli florets, chopped coarsely

4 cloves of garlic, chopped fine

1 tablespoon dried basil

2 teaspoons dried oregano

salt

pepper

Other Ingredients

1 tablespoon or so of olive oil for frying

a pot of tomato sauce, for filling and dipping – see recipe here

about 8 ounces shredded mozzarella cheese

grated parmesan cheese

some cornmeal (optional)

Marinade For Chicken

1 tablespoon red wine ( if wine isn’t your thing, try apple juice, soy sauce, or just skip the marinade step)

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 tablespoon vinegar

1/4 teaspoon salt

dash or two of milled pepper

1 teaspoon dried basil

1 teaspoon dried oregano

Prepare the tomato sauce and let simmer covered while you prepare the rest.

Mix up the marinade in a medium size bowl.

If the chicken breasts are substantially thicker on one edge (and they usually are), slice the thick edge horizontally about half way down the thick edge while the chicken breast is laying flat on the cutting board.  This sort of skims off the thick piece leaving a near totally flat breast on the board.  Be careful with your knife while cutting this way.  More importantly, be careful with your hand and fingers.  Whatever is sliced off is cut into pieces as follows along with the rest of the breast.  Cut the chicken breasts into long slices about 1/2 inches wide.  Cut the slices into about 1 inch pieces.  The idea is to have all pieces come out to be about the same thickness and size in the end so they cook in the same amount of time.  Add all the pieces to the marinade and mix.  Let this sit aside while you chop the vegetables.

Clean and chop the vegetables as the ingredient list above states.  Again, the idea is to have each type of vegetable in roughly equal size pieces so all the pieces of that type of vegetable cook in the same amount of time.   Set aside.

For cooking up the filling I used my wok-type frying pan.  It uses a little less oil and helps keep me from overzealously stirring my pieces out of the pot and all over the stove.  However, any frying pan will do.

Pour some olive oil into the frying pan.   Heat the oil until hot.  The idea here is to cook the vegetables, but still have crisp identifiable pieces at the end of cooking.   Add the onions and start cooking.  Stir while cooking (stir fry).  When the onions are about 1/2 way cooked, add the green peppers. Continue stirring.  Cook the peppers for a short time and then add the marinated chicken.  Sprinkle with salt, pepper, dried basil and oregano. Cook the chicken for a short time and then add the broccoli.  Add the garlic.  Cook while stirring until the chicken is done.

At this point in time, the tomato sauce should be ready,  the chicken filling should be cooked and the dough about finished with its second rising.  If the dough still has a few minutes left to rise,  pour yourself a glass of wine and do some clean up.

Take the finished dough and divide into 4 equal size balls.  Work with one ball of dough at a time, keeping the others in the bowl covered.  Either by hand or with a rolling pin, roll a dough ball into about an eight or nine  inch circle.  The dough can be rolled out relatively thinly.  Roll the dough to a uniform thickness.  Take some of the sauce and coat the surface of the dough with the sauce up to about 1/2 inch from the edge.  Do this in the same way as spreading a sauce on a pizza.  On one half of the dough, place a few tablespoons of the chicken filling.  Add a tablespoon or two or three of shredded mozzarella cheese.  Sprinkle with some parmesan cheese.  The idea is to fill the calzone, but not overfill.  The calzone dough should be stretchy when finished so it can cover a little more filling than you might think at first.  The filling here is just about right for the four calzones plus some nibbling.

Fold the top half of the dough over the filling and match up the edges with the bottom half of the dough.  Press the edges together and then roll the edges up a turn to help seal further.  Make some slits in the top of the calzone to ventilate steam while cooking.  You may also brush some oil on the top of the calzone and sprinkle with corn meal.   Place the filled calzone on a lightly oiled baking sheet.  If you have some cornmeal, sprinkle the corn meal on the baking sheet after oiling.  Fill the other three calzones.  Bake at about 400 degrees for 12 to 15 minutes until brown.  Remove from the oven.

The calzones will be a little too big for most people to eat by hand, unless you happen to be an NFL lineman.  So, cut in half and share.  Use the rest of the tomato sauce as a dip, or in some other way get it on the calzone.  Excuse my self-indulgence, but the tomato sauce is really really good.

Critique

I was a little disappointed that these came out in a proportion which I thought was too bready.  The bread shell sort of overpowered the taste of the filling.   The filling is pretty tasty when sampled from the frying pan.   Using the extra tomato sauce as a dip balanced out the bread, putting the flavor back in the recipe.  What I’ll have to do is find some restaurant made calzones and compare mine with them.

As the picture below attests, one of the calzones came out as an experiment gone wrong.  I overfilled the first calzone and tore the dough as I tried to stretch over the filling.  None the less, I used some pieces of dough to patch up the torn top of my calzone and continued to bake and, more importantly, eat.  If I had some fresher flour, or perhaps a different kind of flour, the dough may have been a little more forgiving.  However, once my lesson was learned, the other three turned out just fine. 

Also, reset the camera exposure to auto, from manual, so you don’t over expose the pictures as I did. 

 Finished calzone with tomato sauce on the side

                  Marinating the chicken

          

                     Assorted vegetables

 

                          Stir frying

  

            Tomato sauce simmering

  Dough ready to be folded over the filling

Finished calzones and the experiment gone wrong

 

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One Response to “Chicken Calzones – Recipe”

  1. Quick Recipes Says:

    Interesting…

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    Like

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