THE WASHINGTON POST – My adoration of phyllo dough knows no bounds. It began with my first bite of spanakopita at a Greek Church festival in Queens, New York, when I was about five years old – one of my first WOW food memories – and it has followed me ever since.
I am enamored with how featherlight and shatteringly crisp it bakes up; the way it is so delicate, yet quite forgiving to work with; and how it can be slathered with healthy olive oil to make an endless variety of better-for-you sweet or savoury pastries.
For these little pies, what’s folded into the phyllo is a savoury mix of ground chicken and finely chopped almonds, seasoned with a Middle Eastern-inspired blend of aromatic spices – onion, garlic, cumin, coriander and pepper – with a balancing hint of honey-sweetness and a generous handful of fresh parsley.
Served with a punchy green sauce made simply by blending more parsley with oil, vinegar, red onion, salt and pepper, they are a special treat to enjoy as a party food, appetiser, or as a meal with two or three pies on a plate alongside a salad. As with most phyllo pies, these can be made ahead and refrigerated or frozen, allowing you to make a batch and heat as many at a time as you need-yet another layer to love about the paper-thin dough.
CHICKEN PHYLLO PIES WITH PARSLEY SAUCE
To refrigerate and heat:
The pies can be refrigerated before or after baking. Wrap unbaked pies in foil and refrigerate for up to one day, then bake, uncovered, according to the recipe instructions, adding about 10 minutes to the cooking time. Once baked, let cool for 30 minutes, then wrap tightly and refrigerate for up to four days.
Reheat in a 350 degree oven, uncovered, for 20 to 30 minutes or until warmed through.
To freeze and heat:
The pies can be frozen before or after baking. Wrap chilled baked or unbaked pies in foil, then place in zip-top bags and freeze for up to three months. When ready to bake, remove from the freezer, uncover and place in a cold oven (no need to defrost). Turn the oven on and heat to 375 degrees for the unbaked pies, or 350 for the baked. Once the oven reaches temperature, bake for about 30 minutes, or until warmed through and the crust is flaky and golden brown.
For the pies:
– One-third cup whole raw almonds
– Eight tablespoons olive oil
– One pound ground 90-94 per cent lean chicken or turkey
– One medium red onion, finely diced
-Three cloves garlic, minced or finely grated
– One-and-a-half teaspoons ground cinnamon
– Three-quarter teaspoon fine salt
– Half teaspoon ground cumin
– One-quarter teaspoon ground coriander
– One-quarter teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
– One-eight teaspoon cayenne pepper, plus more to taste
– One-and-a-half tablespoons of honey
– One-quarter cup finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves
– One large egg, lightly beaten
– Nine (13-by-18-inch) sheets phyllo dough, defrosted overnight in the refrigerator
For the sauce:
– Half cup packed fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves and tender stems
– One-quarter cup of extra-virgin olive oil
– Two tablespoons of finely chopped red onion
– Two tablespoons of water
– One-and-a-half tablespoons of vinegar
– One-quarter teaspoon of fine salt
– One-quarter teaspoon of freshly ground black pepper
Make the pies:
In a dry skillet over medium-high heat, toast the almonds, stirring frequently, until fragrant and a shade darker, about five minutes.
Transfer to a small bowl, let cool, then finely chop.
In a large skillet over medium-high heat, heat one tablespoon of oil until shimmering. Add the chicken and cook, stirring and breaking up the meat with a spoon, until the meat is in very small pieces and no longer pink, about four minutes. Transfer the chicken, along with any juices, to a plate.
Add one more tablespoon of the oil to the same skillet and reduce the heat to medium.
Add the onions and cook, stirring, until lightly golden, about five minutes. Stir in the garlic and cook until aromatic, 30 seconds more.
Add the cinnamon, salt, cumin, coriander, black pepper and cayenne and cook, stirring, for another 30 seconds.
Return the chicken to the pan, with any accumulated juices. Add the honey and stir to incorporate. Remove from the heat and let cool for 10 minutes. Taste, and season with more cayenne, if desired. Stir in the almonds, parsley and egg until combined; you should have about three-and-a-half cups filling.
Position a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees.
Place the stack of phyllo on a clean surface and keep it covered with a clean, damp kitchen towel so it doesn’t dry out.
Lay one sheet of phyllo on a large cutting board, longer side facing you, and use a pastry brush to dab it with the olive oil. Top with another sheet of phyllo, dab it with the oil, and repeat once more, so you wind up with a stack of three layers.
Cover the remaining stack of phyllo with a damp towel so it doesn’t dry out as you make the pies. With the longer side still facing you, cut the layered phyllo, top to bottom, into four strips, each four-and-a-half inches wide.
Put one-quarter cup of the chicken mixture about two inches from the bottom of one strip and fold the phyllo over the mixture into a triangle-shaped pocket.
Continue to fold the strip up to maintain the triangle shape, much as you would fold a flag, forming a triangular turnover. Repeat with the other three strips. Repeat this process two more times so you wind up with 12 pies total.
Place the pies onto two large, rimmed baking sheets. Make a couple of small slits in the top of each with a sharp paring knife, then bake for about 30 minutes, or until golden brown and crisp.
Make the sauce:
While the pies are baking, in a blender, combine the parsley, oil, onion, water, vinegar, salt and pepper and process until smooth; you should have about half cup sauce.
Serve the pies warm, with the sauce alongside.