Tuesday, January 19, 2010
Chicken Pie Recipe (Kotopitta)
Me and phyllo dough have a rocky relationship. It’s sad. I’m half Turkish, and in mid-life, I haven’t yet figured out how to work with it properly. My American mother used to make her phyllo dough by hand, something I can’t even imagine attempting, what with the cursing I am already doing handling the pre-made kind. When the dough is not fresh or if it’s been frozen too long, the thin sheets stick together and make me want to tear the entire package of delicate dough into little pieces and patch them together in haphazard strips and ribbons, throw the rest at the walls, and tell guests I made an art project out of the börek, pie, or pastries I’m making. Forget uniformity. I’m a non-conformist phyllo dough user.
When I have purchased freshly made phyllo dough at the market in Turkey, it is much easier to handle. Turkish phyllo is a little thicker than the Greek kind, tears less frequently, and is easier to brush with butter without breaking the individual sheets. But alas, I used the Greek kind, and it was frozen, and I was impatient, and the sheets tore when I was laying them in the baking dish, and tore further when I tried to brush them with butter.
But there is some good news here. This delicious Greek recipe is like a Mediterranean chicken pot pie. It comes from an out-of-print cookbook, Mediterranean the Beautiful, and it’s scrumptious. I like this dish as is, but as I was cooking, I imagined it being nice with some carrots, or parsnips, or some other root vegetable added to the chicken. But even without the extra vegetables, served with a salad and some crusty bread, it’s a simple lunch or light dinner. It might not be the easiest dish to keep beautiful for leftovers during the week, but who cares? If you’re like me, and you’ve done a phyllo collage, a phyllo mâché, or even more of a phyllo decoupage, it didn’t look so beautiful to begin with.
Go ahead, pack it up and take it into work; I’m sure the flavors will blend wonderfully after a couple of days, and besides, after what has happened in Haiti recently, we should all feel so fortunate to have any kind of chicken pie to eat, even a messy looking one.
Chicken Pie Recipe (Kotopitta)
from Mediterranean the Beautiful Cookbook, Joyce Goldstein
Note from Banu: In lieu of chicken stock, I poached my chicken in regular water, but you could flavor it a bit with some parsley sprigs, a small cut-up onion, a couple of crushed garlic cloves, basically any aromatics you have lying around that match the flavor profile of this recipe. I then used this broth (be sure to remove the aromatics) to add to the butter/flour mixture, and it tasted great.
4 cups chicken stock (or water, see above)
6 chicken breast halves, boned, or 1 4 lb chicken, cut into serving pieces
1/4 cup unsalted butter, plus 1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1 cup chopped green onion
1/4 cup all purpose flour (I used spelt, with fine results)
3 eggs, lightly beaten
1 1/2 cups crumbled feta cheese
1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
4 tablespoons chopped fresh dill
4 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1 tablespoon chopped fresh mint (optional)
salt and freshly ground pepper
12-14 phyllo sheets
Pour the chicken stock (or water) into a saucepan and bring to a boil. Add the chicken pieces and simmer gently until the chicken is tender, about 25 minutes for chicken parts with bones, and 10 minutes for boneless breasts. Remove the chicken pieces from the stock and set aside to cool. Reserve the stock (or broth). When the chicken is cool enough to handle, remove the meat from the bones, if necessary, and shred into bite-sized chunks. Transfer the meat to a large bowl.
In a sauté pan over low heat, melt the 1/4 cup butter. Add the onion and sauté until tender and translucent, about 10 minutes. Stir in the flour and cook, stirring, for a few minutes. Gradually add 2 1/2 cups of the reserved stock (or broth), stirring well, and simmer, stirring occasionally, until thick, 8-10 minutes. Remove from the heat and let cool slightly.
Add the sauce to the chicken. Then stir in the eggs, feta, nutmeg, dill, parsley, and the mint (if using). Season to taste with salt and pepper. (I only added pepper, because the feta contained enough salt to season the dish.)
Preheat an oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
Butter a 9 by 12 by 3 inch or 9 inch square baking pan. Lay 6 or 7 phyllo sheets in the pan, lightly brushing each one with melted butter before adding the next. Spoon the chicken mixture atop the phyllo and spread it evenly. Lay the remaining phyllo sheets on top, brushing each one with butter before adding the next.
Using a sharp knife, score the top few sheets into large squares. Bake until golden, 40-45 minutes. Let rest for 5 minutes, then cut into squares and serve very warm.
Similar recipes from A Hungry Bear Won't Dance: Chicken and Tomato Curry Recipe, Ancho and Guajillo Chile Chicken Enchiladas Recipe, Oven Baked Börek with Mustard Greens, Feta and Walnuts Recipe