Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Curried Chicken Phyllo Triangles

My fear of phyllo dough is right up there with a still-unreasonable fear of yeast dough. It seems a silly hesitation, since I’ve seen it used often and successfully on cooking shows. How difficult can it be? It seems no one makes it from scratch anymore. From what I’ve witnessed, you thaw out a package, unfold something, maybe give it a roll with a rolling pin, stuff, fold, crimp if necessary, and proceed. It’s not rocket science. So why have I waited so long to enter the world of phyllo? Silly me. The recipe below is perfect for the first experience. It’s not as easy as a chicken pot pie where you just lay a square of phyllo dough on top and throw it in the oven. This one takes a little bit of origami-like folding, but it is simple enough to guarantee success.

This recipe comes to me from Deborah Lewis, now a professor at St. Lawrence University, who, with her husband, taught at Skidmore College for a short time after being dislocated from their beloved New Orleans in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. In a previous life, Deborah ran a successful catering company, and she is a wonderful cook. If you are planning a get-together and want to serve an elegant appetizer that combines sweet with savory, try Deborah’s recipe. Here’s her story:

“One of my favorite recipes is Curried Chicken Phyllo Triangles. I came up with this recipe during my career as a caterer in the 1980s (Capers Catering out of Durham, NC) and it was always a smash hit at parties. It’s slightly sweet and also a bit hot-and-spicy. This dish is also somewhat lighter than many hot hors d’oeuvres. Unfortunately, we served it so much that after going into the restaurant business, my partner never ate this dish again. Another memory associated with this dish is of meeting my husband for the first time. He was brought by a mutual friend to a party I was throwing in graduate school, but was on a health kick at the time and refused to even try the Triangles. Not a good beginning! We didn’t have our first date for five years. Our joke is now that I married him so he’d have to eat my food forever.

I do not cook using “proportions” so the following needs to be assembled according to common sense.”

Curried Chicken Phyllo Triangles

Boneless, skinless chicken breasts, fat removed, cut in bite-sized pieces
Cream cheese (regular
Scallions OR red onions OR shallots, chopped
Peeled tart apples, chopped bite-sized OR green seedless grapes, halved
Sliced almonds OR pistachio nuts, chopped coarsely
Phyllo dough, thawed
Butter (for sautéing and more, melted, to brush on phyllo)
Salt, curry powder (Spice Island); cayenne pepper to taste

Preheat oven to about 400.
Heat a couple of tablespoons of butter in a large frying pan until melted.
• Sauté scallions and chicken until chicken is cooked through. Do not overcook.
• Add fruit and nuts and stir for a couple of minutes until fruit is just hot through.
• Add enough cream cheese to coat the ingredients lightly when melted.
• Season to taste. Remove from heat.
To assemble:
• Unroll thawed phyllo dough on lightly floured, large cutting board or smooth surface.
• Cut two sheets at a time, lengthwise, into strips about 3 inches wide.
• Using a pastry brush, lightly brush the surface with melted butter.
• Place a couple of tablespoons filling (not too much) in the bottom corner of the dough.
• Roll the phyllo up as you would a flag so that when finished, you have a triangular “package.”
• Brush the top lightly with a little more butter.
• Continue until filling is used up.
• Bake on lightly buttered cookie sheet for about 15 minutes or until lightly brown.

Serve immediately. Eaten as finger food.

Tomorrow's blog: My Aunt Jeanne McGeehan Cella's delicious iced tea -- story and recipe!

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