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.

Serves 6-8

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


Jennifer said...

Wow, that looks way too delicate for my patience, but that looks really yummy! :D

Michelle J said...

Yum, yum, yum! I was thinking of you and your wonderful cooking last night when I watched the new Anthony Bourdain episode from Turkey. Oh, nummers, I want to go there NOW! :)

Tau-Mu said...

I love chicken pot pie!

Hathor's Bath said...

I shouldn't laugh, but that someone who dances with more grace and energy than I'll ever have no matter how many times I reincarnate should struggle with a parchment-like bread product made me snicker slightly. I love phyllo but I can't find it in England, or I'd cook with it more.

Actually, patchwork phyllo sounds kind of cool!

Chris Ogan said...

I can empathize with your problems with the filo/phyllo dough. It does the same for your mom. I use two or three sheets together sometimes to avoid this problem. As for rolling it out myself, I don't do that anymore as I can order the Turkish kind online. This chicken version looks great!!

Boomka said...

Ok let me start by saying stumbling across your blog when I haven't eaten in 4 hours is a blessing and a curse. Your creations look divine. But as I am headed to a happy hour in 20 minutes I know I'll walk in thinking "Man I could really go for some Kotopitta with... ooo they have Beer!" and my night will just end poorly. I don't quite have a dancers budget but I'm sure I'm not far off! I will be watching and maybe... MAYBE... attempting. But watching is easier =)

powderate said...

Dear Banu,

Your hilarious description of working with phyllo is too funny.

My daughter was visiting over the holidays from London, and wanting to make some of her favorite things I bought a frozen package of organic wholewheat phyllo. As invariably happens, it sat in the fridge longer than it should, add to that, I had to be skimpy on the butter ... it was aggravating to say the least. Finally I couldn't take it anymore and decided to finish with great big triangles, just to end the agony. Much to my glee they were consumed as if they were perfect. The filling was baked yam with jerk ground chicken and my huckleberry ketchup dip.

Richard said...

Looks great and sounds great, too bad I have zero patience to do something like this! Maybe one day?

我 moi said...

oohh looks delectable :) lovely blog !

Banu said...

Jennifer: It's actually not too bad, as much as I've complained. No matter how it looks, it'll taste great.

Michelle: Yes, Turkey. Fantastic place. If you go, please write me and I'll tell you all my favorite secret places!

Tau-Mu: Great. Please let me know how you like it, if you make it!

Hathor's Bath: glad I made you laugh. I bet you could find phyllo in England in Middle Eastern places or in gourmet markets? But it might be easier to just not find phyllo and be done with it. Then no decoupage frustration, right? I'm with you...

Mom: You're awesome. Thank you for teaching me so much about food and cooking!

Boomka: Yeah, beer and kotopitta would be a great match. Sorry I can't just run some over in the middle of your happy hour with kotopitta delivery!

Richard: You can do it! If one doesn't care so much about perfect looking things then it's not so bad. Quick preparation time and tasty results!

Moi: Thank you!

Jana said...

Me and phyllo arent friends either, but I pretend we are when I make spanakopita, thanks for this recipe! sounds wonderful!

oferty panów said...

That chicken potpie is hot ;)

Fritz Bogott said...

I don't suppose your mom would care to reveal her source for acceptable-quality phyllo?

Banu said...

Powderate: mmm...yam and chicken. Sounds great! I'm glad you could empathize with my phyllo dough struggles!

Jana: yeah, I think, generally, the end result is usually worth the effort.

Fritz: www.tulumba.com

vickys said...

MMM, looks veryvery tasty! I love spanokopita and is probably the closest thing I've tasted to this... I need to look for a place that makes this! (I don't think we sell freshly made phyllo anywhere here in Asia)

Robzilla said...

Wow! Glad I found your blog my tummy has been thanking me ever since! Awesome cuisine!

natural selection said...

Nonetheless, c'est un object d'art.


CoppersLove said...

You're half turkish too?!?!
I was Wondering with the food your cooking. I totally love the mixed heritage groove, and yes, phyllo and I have not come to an agreement yet...lol

Banu said...

Vickys: perhaps you could find phyllo in a gourmet food shop or international store? Or, if you're in the mood for a lengthy project, you could attempt to make it yourself!

Robzilla: great. I'm so happy your belly's happy.

Natural Selection: aw, thanks.

Cooper's Love: yes, half-Turkish, so I make a fair amount of Turkish food, but also all kinds of other stuff, too. I'm glad you like the mix!

My Passport to Style said...

Hi there, this recipe looks amazing,I would love you to take part in My Tea Dance over @ My Passport to Style to raise funds for Haiti, I do hope you will join me.It does not cost you a penny and is alot of fun, look forward to seeing you there! Sharon xxoo

hackaday said...

Hello it's my fisrt time in your blog ever. It 's really cool. One question: You are half Turkish with american mother and you use Greek words (kotopitta, phyllo etc.). How comes that? Do you speak Greek? Keep up with the good work.
If you want check out my blog: http://cyglobe.blogspot.com. Greetings from Greece.

the southern hostess said...

This looks fantastic. Glad I found your yummy blog!

Banu said...

Hackaday: I am, indeed, half Turkish, yet this recipe is Greek, so I used the Greek spelling for phyllo. I'm glad you stopped by my blog; I'll surely check out yours.

the southern hostess: thank you!

Passport to style: great idea. I'll come on over.

Lou said...


Dylan said...

Can you give a brief description/ingredients list for phyllo? Very interesting indeed.

sanjeet said...

I make a fair amount of Turkish food, but also all kinds of other stuff, too. I'm glad you like the mix!

Work from home India

JayP said...

Ahhh, we were pondering if you were Turkish / had visited Turkey. The title of your blog is a well-known Turkish proverb isn't it? And then I saw the photo with the phyllo. I've never worked with phyllo - I've always been terrified of it but as we live in Turkry now, working with fresh yufka is fantastic.

Really like your blog - after discovering it on blogs of note. We eat on a budget all the time (although maybe this is easier in Turkey?). Oh yes, and very jealous there is an Anthony Bourdain series where he is in Turkey (Michelle J comment). We love him and have tried in vain to access the series through the internet! Never mind.

Banu said...

Yes, JayP, it is a Turkish proverb, and thought it combined my interests perfectly. Where are you in Turkey? Yes, yufka is a lot easier to work with, and yes, you sure can get some delicious, healthy meals in Turkey inexpensively. Have a great time there,and thanks for stopping by my blog!

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