(Actual pie goodness)
If you are a woman who grew up in a Greek household, there are certain things that you can count on having in common with every other woman you meet who grew up in a Greek household. One, you have been the recipient of corporal punishment in the form of a wooden spoon, or (in a pinch) a bedroom slipper. Two, you don’t understand the impetus to cook with anything but olive oil. After all, doesn’t every house have a five gallon container of the stuff under the sink? Lastly, you are not intimidated in the least at the prospect of working with phyllo dough. There is a vague suspicion that perhaps it is part of your genetic makeup, coded in your DNA.
I tell people that “I come from a culture where food is love.” I know that mine is not the only culture that has this attitude about food. It’s something that we share with a number of other ethnicities around the globe. Indeed, with perhaps a few notable exceptions, most cultures have traditions about preparing and sharing food, the expression of love through cooking.
You will know that I love you if I cook you something with phyllo dough.
With the recession on, I’ve been turning to comfort food a lot recently. And I have been inordinately inspired to making an old greek favorite: Chicken and apricot phyllo pie. The bonus in all of this is that the dish is ridiculously cheap and easy to make. It’s ready in less than an hour (including the baking time). Most of the ingredients (with the exception of the chicken, which can be frozen) will keep for a comparatively long period of time, which is a useful thing in a modern world where busy schedules change frequently and a dinner may need to be whipped up or postponed at a moment’s notice. But the best part is that the ingredients to make a single pie (dried spices excepted) cost less than $12.00 when purchased at full price without cupons from a premium grocery store (in my case, Wegman’s).* Given that a single pie generously serves six, that works out to less than $2.00 per serving.
Here’s how to do it….
1 lb ground chicken
1 small onion, diced
½ cup bulgur wheat
½ cup dried apricots
½ cup almonds
6 tbs butter
¼ lb phyllo dough
16 oz greek yogurt, plain
1 tsp ground cinnamon
½ tsp dried nutmeg
½ tsp dried cardamom
1) Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit
2) Take one tsp of the butter and grease a nine inch pie plate, put the remainder in a deep 12 inch skillet and melt it.
3) Boil ½ cup of water in a small pot, remove from heat, add the bulgur wheat and let stand until the liquid is absorbed, about 5 to 10 minutes.
4) Add chicken and onion to the skillet and brown them
5) Put almonds and apricots into a mini-prep food processor and pulse them on low until both nuts and apricots are thoroughly chopped.
6) When chicken is cooked through add bulgur wheat and the nuts and apricots along with the spices and cook for another 2 to 3 minutes. Salt and pepper to taste. Remove from heat and add the yogurt, mixing it well.
7) Melt the remaining 5 tbs of butter in a small pot.
8) Unroll the phyllo dough. With a pastry brush, paint each sheet of phyllo dough one by one with the melted butter, and then lay each into the pie plate, being sure the bottom is completely and evenly covered. Keep going until you have about four or five in the bottom of the pie plate.
9) Spoon the chicken mixture into the crust formed out of the phyllo dough.
10) Again, using the pastry brush, paint each sheet of dough with the melted butter and then use each to cover the pie. Keep going until you have four or five layered over the pie completely and evenly covering the pie.
11) Crumple 2 or 3 remaining sheets on top of the pie and then drizzle with the remainder of the butter.
12) Bake at 400 degrees for 30 minutes.
13) Let pie stand for 15 minutes and then serve.
Along with a salad, this makes a great light summertime dinner. Serve with a fruity white wine or a Belgian tripel ale (Westmalle is one of my favorites).
* The pricing is based on what it would cost to purchase the ingredients in their available sizes and forms (as listed on the store website) from my local Wegman’s, with each item pro-rated where a package would not be entirely used. (There is enough phyllo dough in a package of Athens Fillo, for instance, to make four pies, so the unit price of $3.79 can be pro-rated to 94 cents per pie.) Using this method, the ingredients total $11.64, or $1.94 per serving.
Make sure you tune in here Wednesday night at 10 pm for another Liveblog of Top Chef Masters. Food, fun, mayhem. I will be eating leftover pie for dinner, I think.