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Texas Turnovers: Chilipanzingas

Turnovers are found in many variations around the world. Texas may be the only state to claim its own: the chilipanzinga

In just about every region around the world, turnovers exist with a variety of shapes, ingredients, and cooking methods. The Germans have beerocks, which include cabbage; Armenians have lahmajoon; Spanish-speaking countries have empanadas; and India has its wonderful samosas.

Only in Texas. Yep. It's true. Since Texans tend to believe their state has no peer, they, too, had to invent a turnover: the chilipanzinga. They're typically fried, as any good Texan will tell you, but they can be baked. So, if you're after that low cholesterol count, just turn the oven to about 350 degrees and give her a try.

Now, most recipes like this will state that turnovers are best eaten hot. What they forget to mention is that the insides of these things can reach temperatures that will make the Devil fan his mouth. So, be warned: let them cool just a teeny bit and then bite off a little crust at a time to let some of the steam escape. Giving your family and friends blistered gums is not neighborly.

Here's our recipe. You can make it however you want, but then it won't be a chilipanzinga. It'll just be a turnover from some other country.


-2 cups masa harina
-1/1/4 cups hot water
-Pinch of salt (optional)

-1 cup chopped, cooked ham
-1 cup shredded Cheddar cheese
-1 cup shredded Monterey Jack cheese
-1 medium onion, chopped
-1 large poblano chile, cut in thin short strips
-2 Jalapenos, minced (optional)
-1 Tablespoon chili powder
-Oil for sauteing

Plus oil for deep frying

-Mix together chopped onion, poblano strips, and minced jalapeno. Coat thoroughly with chili powder.
-Saute the mix in oil until onions are translucent.
-Add ham to heat through.
-Combine cheeses in a separate bowl.

For pastry, slowly add water to the masa harina and knead with hands. Add additional water until dough is firm and non-sticky. Let rest for about 10 minutes under a damp towel.

Form into balls - each should be about 1 inch in diameter. Between two sheets of wax paper, roll the dough out to no more than 4 inches in diameter.

Combine the cheeses and the filling in one bowl.
Place about 1 Tablespoon in the center of the pastry.
Fold over to form a half-circle and crimp the edges firmly closed with a fork.

Drop into oil and fry for about 2 minutes on each side. (Test one for doneness before frying the rest.)

Makes approximately 12 turnovers.

Once you get the hang of it, you can easily double, triple, or whatever, this recipe.

Like other turnovers, chilipanzingas make great appetizers, especially since they can be made ahead of time. Just fill and crimp, and keep in the refrigerator until frying time. If you decide to bake them, they will also freeze well.

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