Frozen phyllo dough just right for brunch dishes

The Whole Dish podcast: Phyllo makes delightfully crunchy crust for quiche

The biggest cast-iron skillet I’ve ever seen, layered with greens and red peppers for a gorgeous frittata, dominated the spread at a recent weekend brunch.

But vying for attention as the most impressive dish was a classic vegetarian entree, borrowed from traditional Greek cuisine. Spanikopita, which typically layers spinach and ricotta cheese, crowned with phyllo pastry, also came in vegan and gluten-free versions at this gathering.

Accustomed to vegetable-based dishes, this crowd, fittingly, was wowed by the crunchy, tissue-thin pastry that contrasts so well with tender greens and a creamy filling. “How do you make it?” my friend wondered.

Some around the table theorized the mechanized process that rolls the dough so thin, which is how the vast majority are produced. The most authentic version in Greek bakeries involves hand-stretching the dough on a cold stone slab, a remarkable feat without tearing the ephemeral sheets.

Most cooks, of course, encounter phyllo in the frozen sections of their supermarket. It can be used for sweet and savory preparations, from appetizers to desserts. I love it as an alternative to the traditional pie crust for quiche, particularly with the season’s asparagus, followed by summer zucchini and tomatoes. See the recipe in this post from May 2016

Frozen phyllo also elevates humble ingredients of rice and chicken in this strudel, courtesy of Tribune News Service. This recipe would be an interesting way to stretch or recast leftover, cooked chicken and rice for dinner. Or make it extra-special, maybe for Mother’s Day brunch, with sautéed mushrooms — spring morels, if you can find them — fresh, tender herbs, such as chives and tarragon, and a good-quality cheese like Gruyere.

Just make sure to handle the phyllo carefully and keep the sheets damp while filling and rolling them.

Tribune News Service photo

Chicken and Wild Rice Strudel

1 (8.8-ounce) package ready-to-serve long-grain and wild rice or 2 cups cooked long-grain and wild rice

1 1/2 cups coarsely chopped, cooked chicken

1/2 cup shredded Swiss cheese

1/2 teaspoon Italian seasoning (see note)

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

12 sheets phyllo dough (9-by-14-inches), divided

6 tablespoons butter, melted

Preheat oven to 400 F. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, mix together the rice, chicken, cheese, Italian seasoning, salt and pepper.

Place 1 sheet of the phyllo dough on a work surface (keeping other sheets covered with a damp paper towel); brush lightly with some of the melted butter. Layer with 5 additional sheets, brushing each layer with butter.

Spoon half of rice mixture all over top layer, spreading it to within 1 inch of ends. Fold uncovered ends of short sides over top of filling. Roll tightly, beginning with a long side. Place on prepared baking sheet, seam-side down. Brush with additional melted butter.

Repeat with remaining ingredients. Bake in preheated oven for 20 to 25 minutes or until golden-brown and heated through.

Makes 6 servings.

NOTE: If you do not have Italian seasoning, use a pinch each of dried basil, oregano, rosemary, marjoram, cilantro, thyme and savory.

Recipe adapted by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch from Taste of Home; recipe by Joanna Johnson.

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    Sarah Lemon

    Sarah Lemon covers the Rogue Valley’s food scene with an enthusiasm that rivals her love of cooking. Her blog mixes culinary musings and milestones with tips and recipes you won’t find in the Mail Tribune’s weekly A la Carte section. When ... Read Full
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