A few weeks ago I opened my big International Recipes cookbook to the Greek section and started perusing. I've never made Greek food, but have enjoyed it at restaurants quite a few times, so I knew this chapter would be fun to try out. I finally settled on a Phyllo Pie with Chicken. It looked easy enough to make and the ingredients sounded delicious.
For the pie, you'll need to focus on two things - the filling and the phyllo layers. Here's everything you'll need for the filling (plus ground chicken, that didn't make it in the picture). You'll notice that in my recent attempt to save money, I've been picking up Target brand spices. So far I haven't noticed a difference. Give them a try!
The ground chicken is cooked and broken into very small pieces, then mixed with the remaining ingredients to make the following.
As for the phyllo layers, you'll find the phyllo dough in your grocer's refrigerated section. I've consistently seen Athens Fillo rated very high, so that's what I go with.
The only tricky part with this recipe is working with the phyllo dough. I've done it before with no problems, but this time I forgot one crucial thing. It's really essential to keep your phyllo layers covered in order to prevent them from drying out. Use plastic wrap or a towel - whichever is handy. Pull out one layer at a time, and then immediately re-cover. The little suckers dry out so easily. And of course, I got lazy and forgot that this time. So by the time I got to my last, top layers of the pie, they were cracking and breaking. They still tasted great, but just weren't quite as pretty. At least I won't make that mistake again!
This dish is so tasty and was a big hit. The flavors were great - I looove feta cheese. It's one of the few things I missed eating while I was pregnant. I will definitely make this again. Serve it with a Greek salad and you've got yourself a complete meal. Now I can't wait to try out the rest of the recipes in this chapter!
Phyllo Pie with Chicken (Kotopita)
(from Cook's Illustrated's The Best International Recipe)
1 Tbsp. olive oil
2 lbs. ground chicken
8 oz. feta cheese, crumbled into fine pieces (about 2 cups)
3 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 bunch scallions, sliced thin
1/2 cup pitted kalamata olives, chopped (I omitted these - not a fan of olives!)
1/3 cup fresh mint leaves
3 Tbsp. juice from 1 lemon
2 medium garlic cloves, minced or pressed through a garlic press (about 2 tsp.)
1 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. ground black pepper
1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
3/4 cup olive oil
1/2 lb. (14 by 9-inch) phyllo, thawed
1 ounce Parmesan cheese, grated (about 1/2 cup)
1. For the filling: Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat until shimmering. Add the chicken and cook, breaking the meat into small pieces with a wooden spoon, until no longer pink, about 5 minutes. Transfer to a strainer and let drain, about 5 minutes. Break apart any large clumps of meat with your fingers.
2. Meanwhile, mix the feta, eggs, scallions, olives, mint, lemon juice, garlic, salt, pepper, and cayenne together in a large bowl. Stir in the drained chicken until uniform. (The filling can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 24 hours.)
3. For the phyllo layers: Adjust an oven rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 400 degrees. Brush a 13 by 9-inch baking dish liberally with oil. Lay one phyllo sheet in the bottom of the prepared dish and brush thoroughly with oil. Repeat with 7 more phyllo sheets, brushing each with oil. Spread half of the chicken mixture evenly into the dish. Cover with 4 more phyllo sheets, brushing each with oil.
4. Spread the remaining chicken mixture evenly into the dish. Cover with 7 more phyllo sheets, brushing each with oil and sprinkling with about 1 Tbsp. of Parmesan. Lay the final sheet of phyllo over the top and brush with oil (do not sprinkle the final layer with Parmesan).
5. Working from the center outward, use the palms of your hands to compress the layers and press out any air pockets. Using a sharp knife, lightly score the pie into serving squares but do not cut through more than the top 3 sheets of phyllo. Bake until the phyllo is golden and crisp, 30 to 35 minutes. Cool on a wire rack for at least 10 minutes or up to 2 hours before serving. (The pie can be wrapped tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerated for up to 4 days. Leftovers are best at room temperature or reheated in a 350-degree oven until crisp and heated through, about 25 minutes).
Makes about 6 to 8 servings.