Karl’s Pollo Picante Samsa

The other day, Eilene complained that it has been a long time since I have made samsa. I have filled these baked pocket breads with lamb and spinach in the past and they are very popular in my house. I thought about mixing the lamb and the spinach versions, but Jan rejected that idea.

Karl’s Pollo Picante Samsa

Karl’s Pollo Picante Samsa

I am not one to be hung up on cultural purity in cooking. Sometimes, I strive to cook authentic dishes. At other times, being a Californian, I enjoy fusing different cuisines. Today, I decided to fuse Central Asian and Mexican cuisines.

Last night, I made chicken tacos. I had plenty of the filling left over, so I suggested putting this filling in the samsa. Jan gave this the thumbs up.

I ran into a problem in naming this dish. When I put this filling in a taco, it is simply a chicken taco. What do I call it when I am just using the filling?

I make my chicken taco filling with roasted chilies and sautéed onions and celery.  I usually do not use tomatoes in my chicken version of taco fillings. I would call it chicken picante, spicy chicken.

I looked at the recipes on-line for chicken picante and virtually all of them were for chicken with bottled tomato salsa slopped on them.  While I have resorted to this sort of thing when I am in a rush, this was not this current dish is about. I decided to translate the word “chicken” into Spanish, pollo, to distinguish it from the Americanized version of spicy chicken.

Note: While I made this filling for Chicken tacos last night, I made enough for two meals. I have adjusted the ingredients quantities with the assumption that you are going to make the filling just for this meal.

Karl’s Pollo Picante Samsa



¼ tsp. cumin seeds
¼ tsp. coriander seeds
¼ tsp. black pepper, cracked
Pinch red pepper flakes
¾ cup yellow onions, diced, separate uses

1 chicken breast, boneless and skinless
½ cup beer, Mexican dark preferred

1 Anaheim chilies
1 Poblano chile

1 Tbs. corn oil
1 stalk celery, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
¼ cup cilantro stems
1 package of McCormick’s Chicken Taco Seasoning (or Karl’s Taco Seasoning)
2 tsp. lime juice, fresh
½ teaspoon cornstarch mixed with water (if necessary)


1 ½ cup of all purpose flour
1 egg
¼ teaspoon of salt
½ ± cup of water, just enough to make a stiff dough


1. Place the cumin, coriander, pepper, and red pepper flakes into a mortar and use the pestle to break up the whole spices a bit. Your finished blend should be a bit coarse.

Tip: You are not trying to turn the cumin and coriander into powders.

2. Toast the spices in a large skillet on medium low heat for a minute or two, until fragrant.

Tip: Make sure to use a skillet that has a lid that fits.

3. Add one tablespoon of oil and one quarter cup of onions to the pan and sauté until the onions are picking up some color.

4. Slice the chicken breasts in half, crosswise, so that you have four thin steaks.

Tip: Place the breasts flat on the cutting board and run the knife through them parallel to the board. Alternatively, you may pound them thinner with a mallet, to about 3/8 of an inch.

5. Place the chicken into the skillet and brown each side lightly.

Tip: Dredge the chicken in the onions and spices in the skillet, so that most of it is imbedded in the meat when you start browning. This both gets the flavor into the meat and prevents the loose spices and onions from burning.

6. Add the beer, cover the skillet and reduce the heat to a low simmer.

7. Poach the chicken for 10 to 15 minutes.

8. While the chicken is poaching, roast the chilies. Wash the peppers and place them on a lipped baking sheet. Broil them 3-4 inches away from the heating element. Turn them about every five minutes until they are well charred on all sides.

9. Combine the all purpose flour, egg, salt and water and knead to make the dough.  Cover it with plastic wrap and let it rest for 30 to 40 minutes.

10. Remove the chilies from the oven and put them in a plastic bag until they are cool enough to handle.

Tip: The plastic bag continues to steam the chilies and makes it easier to remove the tough skins.

11. Skin and seed the chilies and dice them finely. Reserve the chilies until later.

12. Remove the chicken to a plate and let it cool. When it is cool enough to handle, shred the chicken finely.

Tip: Take each piece of breast and squeeze to break up the meat. Pull the strands of muscles apart so that you have a pile of half to three quarter inch strings of meat.

13. Reserve the poaching liquid.

Tip: Many cooks would recommend straining the solids out of this cooking liquid; I am not one of them.

14. Add the remaining corn oil to the skillet and sauté the onions and celery until they are starting to pick up some color, about 5 minutes.

15. Add the garlic and sauté until fragrant, about one minute.

16. Pull the vegetables to the edges of the skillet and add the seasoning. Toast the spices in the open space for 30 to forty seconds and then pull the vegetables back into the center of the pan.

17. Add the chopped chilies and cilantro stems to the skillet and continue to stir to mix, about one minute.

18. Add the chicken shreds, reserve liquid and lime juice to the skillet and stir to blend. Simmer for 5 to 10 minutes.

19. If there is a lot of liquid in the skillet add 1 tablespoon of water mixed with ½ teaspoon of cornstarch to thicken any broth.

20. Cool the chicken filling.

21. While your filling is cooling, roll your dough into a snake about a foot long. Cut the dough into 10-12 equal pieces and roll them into small balls.

22. Roll out each ball into a 6 inch round disk.

23. When the filling is cool, place about 3 Tbs. in the center of a dough disk and fold one edge over the filling.

24. Moisten the top edge of the fold and fold the opposite edge over the first. Pat it down lightly.

25. Moisten the open ends of the dough packet and fold each end in by a quarter of its width. This is to cover the gaps left by the rounded curve of the dough disk.

26. Lay the rectangular packet on a Pam-ed baking sheet, folds down, and press lightly to distribute the filling into the corners.

27. When all of the packets are filled, brush lightly with oil and poke two holes in the tops of each packet.

28. Bake in a 400° oven for 30 minutes.

Tip: Check at 25 minutes to make sure that they do not get over done.

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Filed under Main Dishes, Poultry

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