Pastel de Pollo 

Viva La Difference!

I started grade school here in the U.S. without speaking a word of English. In fact, I was one of only a handful of newly exiled Cuban kids at the time. Yes, only a fewCubans in Miami. I know. Weird.

I tried hard to fit in and learned to speak English pretty quickly (I’m a living argument for English immersion, but that’s not important right now). I learned the ways of my new country and the inflections and nuances of my new language. I swear I was assimilating beautifully most days, except for... LUNCH TIME.

If there was anything that screamed, “I’m different!” it was the lunches my mom packed for me.

Picture the lunchtime scene with all the American kids opening their lunch boxes and reaching for their Peanut Butter and Jelly Sandwiches on Wonder Bread, and little Marta trying to covertly eat a Papa Rellena, or some Galletas Preparadas, or a Pastel de Pollo. (sigh) This is where my new language failed me. “Umm… it’s like a mashed potato, but with meat in the center…” I would try to explain but couldn’t find the words to describe Picadillo. (I still can’t, but that’s not important right now, either. =D) However, I can still remember the puzzled looks and the feeling of being oh-so-different. (heavy sigh)

In retrospect, I think, Papa Rellena?! Croquetas?! Pastel de Pollo?!! Versus Peanut Butter and Jelly?? 
You know, come to think of it, "Different" is a VERY. GOOD. THING.

My Cuban lunches ROCKED!!  

Pastel de Pollo

  • 1 pkg. Pepperidge Farm Puff Pastry Sheets
  • 6 boneless, skinless chicken thighs (you can use breasts if you prefer, the thighs fall apart better. =D)
  • Garlic powder
  • Olive oil
  • 1 yellow onion, chopped
  • 1/2 green bell pepper, seeded and chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 – 6 oz. can tomato paste
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 1/2 cup raisins
  • 1/4 cup green, pimiento-stuffed olives, diced
  • 1 small jar diced pimientos (sweet red peppers)
  • 1 small can young peas
  • Salt and pepper to taste

1) Place chicken in a large saucepot, sprinkle with garlic powder and cook until tender. About 40 minutes. Drain. Allow to cool and set aside. You can also use leftover chicken. Then trick is to make sure it falls apart easily.

2) In a large skillet, sauté the onion, bell pepper and garlic in the olive oil, until the onion is translucent.

3) Add tomato paste and white wine and cook over low heat for about 5 minutes or until heated through.

4) When the chicken has cooled to the touch, shred and add to the sofrito mixture in the skillet. Mix well.

5) Finally, add the raisins, olives, pimientos and peas.

6) Cook for another 5 minutes, stirring to mix well.

7) Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

8) Thaw the puff pastry according to package directions.

9) Use parchment paper to line your pan or cookie sheet.

10) Unfold one of the pastry sheets and place on the pan.

11) Spread the chicken mixture to the ends of the pastry.

12) Unfold second pastry sheet and place on top of chicken.

13) Cut into squares before baking.

14) Bake at 400 degrees for about 30 minutes or until golden brown.

15) Serve hot or cold.

It makes a great lunch… if you’re tired of PB & J sandwiches.