Special of the day: Fear Fillo No More

25 Apr Special of the day: Fear Fillo No More

Florentine Baked Eggs in Fillo Cups
“Remember that fillo-wrapped chicken from your wedding rehearsal dinner?” my long-time pal Callie hit me with, totally out of the blue, as we were catching up recently.  Wow, Cal, I honestly did not. Nor had the thought of it even entered my mind in the last 16 years since.
The specifics were a little vague, even to Cal, but her question sure got me thinking. And I knew just where to start on finding out more about this fillo-wrapped chicken formula.
A call to the caterer who did special events at Paris Gibson Square at the time of our rehearsal dinner revealed that the chicken recipe was under wraps, literally, closely guarded for possible use in a cookbook in the future, which I totally understood.
            A no-go on the famous fillo chicken recipe just meant the world was now my oyster.  I knew what I was after as far as a baked stuffed fillo-wrapped chicken dish. It was just a matter of getting into the kitchen with some chicken, a few of my favorite ingredients, and some fillo dough, which I had befriended long ago.
                Pounding the chicken breasts thin and rolling them around the flavorful filling insured that they were baked to perfection on the inside just as the fillo dough was finishing its browning up on the outside, achieving the desired effect for the entree.  
                Callie’s interest in finding out more about working with fillo fueled my desire to have fun with fillo and develop not only a chicken recipe, but also a baked egg dish with spinach and a mini cheesecake dessert in fillo cups.
                Follow a few tips and you, too, from this day forward, will be fearless with fillo.
                The most important thing, I think, with fillo is that you thaw it completely before working with it. Thawing can be accomplished by leaving it unopened overnight in the refrigerator or keeping frozen fillo dough out at room temperature for about two hours. Once thawed, fillo dough can be wrapped and kept in the refrigerator for up to four weeks.
                Once thawed, fillo dough must be covered with a damp cloth while you are working with it to prevent it from drying out. The sheets of fillo dough will quickly become brittle, cracking and breaking if they are exposed to the air.
                Mise en place, or having everything in its place as far as your recipe is concerned, really comes into play when working with fillo. Measure, chop and place ingredients within easy reach prior to starting, so you’re ready to assemble.  You don’t want to waste any precious time, which makes a difference with thawed fillo that tends to dry out quickly.
                Thaw it and cover it with a damp towel. Beyond that, fillo is not as fussy as it may look at first glance. Small tears can be mended easily with a brush of melted butter. Sheets are fairly easy to fold and roll around prepared ingredients. Fillo dough cuts nicely with a pizza cutter. It can be used for a quick flaky crust or to wrap around a variety of sweet or savory fillings. And finally, fillo bakes rather quickly and easily in the oven. What’s not to love about fillo?
                Some of my favorite uses for fillo include appetizer triangles filled with ricotta flavored with herbs and cheese then flag-folded into small appetizer triangles from The Silver Palate Cookbook and a Red Potato Strudel using cooked baby red potatoes cut into bite-sized pieces, mixed with cheese and rosemary rolled up and baked into a savory strudel side dish from a cooking class at Bellevue Square’s Kitchen Kitchen store years ago. But honestly, almost anything goes with fillo. Once you get the hang of it, fillo will be your new best friend.
                Grab a box of fillo (and please, thaw it and cover it!) and off you go with this week’s Special of the day: Fear Fillo No More! and recipes for Florentine Baked Eggs in Fillo Cups, Mushroom and Herb-Stuffed Chicken in Fillo and Grand Marnier Cheesecake Fillo Flowers with Candied Orange Almonds. Happy Baking!

Florentine Baked Eggs in Fillo Cups

Florentine Baked Eggs in Fillo Cups
(Makes eight)
4 sheets fillo dough, thawed
2 tablespoons melted butter
1 package baby spinach leaves
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced
¼ teaspoon Kosher salt.
8 eggs
3 tablespoons heavy cream
2 tablespoons minced chives, for garnish
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Using pizza cutter, cut four phyllo sheets into four inch strips, then cut strips into four inch squares.
Brush 8 cups of the muffin tin with melted butter.
Lay one square in each of eight muffin cups.
Brush lightly with melted butter.
Layer three more phyllo squares on top of first square, brushing lightly with melted butter in between layers.
Bake in preheated oven 4 minutes, until light golden brown.
Meanwhile, heat medium sauté pan to medium heat and add olive oil.
When hot, add garlic and spinach and stir fry spinach briefly, just until wilted.
Stir in ¼ teaspoon Kosher salt.
Remove from heat.
Remove phyllo cups from oven and let cool slightly.
Reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees.
Divide wilted spinach among baked phyllo cups.
Top with parmesan cheese shreds.
(Note: you could add crumbled cooked bacon here, if desired.)
Crack an egg on top of spinach and parmesan in each phyllo cup.
Top with 1 teaspoon heavy cream.
Bake in 350 degree oven for 12-15 minutes, to desired degree of doneness.
Transfer baked eggs from muffin tin to serving plates.
Sprinkle with minced chives and serve.

Grand Marnier Mini Cheesecakes with Candied Orange Almonds

Grand Marnier Cheesecake Fillo Flowers(makes 24 mini cheesecakes)

Candied Orange Almonds

(can be made ahead)

¼ cup sugar

1 tablespoon orange peel, grated

½ cup slivered almonds

In medium sauté pan over medium heat, melt sugar.

Reduce heat of sugar starts to brown.

When melted, add almonds, stirring to coat.

Add orange peel and stir to distribute.

Transfer Candied Orange Almonds to waxed paper to cool.

Use Candied Orange Almonds to garnish Grand Marnier Cheesecake Flowers.

1 package fillo dough (from 16-ounce box, return other package to freezer for other use), thawed

¼ cup butter, melted

6 ounces cream cheese, softened

¼ cup sugar

1 egg

1 tablespoon orange peel, grated

1 tablespoons sour cream

1 teaspoon flour

2 tablespoons Grand Marnier (orange juice may be substituted)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Using a pizza cutter, cut fillo sheets into 3 inch strips, then cut strips into 3 inch squares to make 48 squares.

Brush two mini muffin tins with butter.

Lay one fillo square in each muffin cup and brush with melted butter.

Lay a second fillo square on top and butter those.

(You could sprinkle sugar on edges of fillo, if desired.)

Beat cream cheese and sugar until thoroughly mixed.

Add egg and beat to combine.

Beat in orange peel, sour cream, flour and Grand Marnier until smooth.

Spoon filling into fillo flowers, filling about halfway.

Bake in preheated oven for 8-10 minutes, until fillo is golden brown and filling is set.

Remove from oven and let cool.

Garnish with Candied Orange Almonds.

(Can be made ahead and refrigerated.)



Mushroom and Herb-stuffed Chicken in Fillo

Mushroom and Herb-Stuffed Chicken in Fillo(serves four)

1 package fillo dough (from 16-ounce box, return other package to freezer for other use), thawed

2 tablespoons butter

2 cloves garlic, minced

2 tablespoons sweet onion, finely chopped

¼ cup fresh mushrooms, chopped

1 teaspoon rosemary

1 teaspoon Herbes de Provence

¼ teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons white wine

4 ounces cream cheese, softened

2 boneless chicken breasts

¼ cup melted butter for brushing phyllo sheets

1 egg

1 teaspoon water


1. Mise en place

Set prepared ingredients out on work surface.Cut each chicken breast in half, making pieces about 3 inches long and 2 inches wide

Pound chicken pieces between two sheets of waxed paper to ¼ inch thickness.

Heat medium sauté pan over medium high heat.

Melt 2 tablespoons butter and sauté garlic, onion and mushrooms until soft.

Add rosemary, Herbes de Provence and salt and stir to combine..

Add wine and cook until reduced.

(Most of the liquid should be gone.)

Remove from heat and let cool.

Make egg wash by whisking egg with water.

Beat cream cheese and mushroom and herb mixture until thoroughly combined.

Lay chicken pieces out on work surface.


2. Fill the pounded chicken

Place 2 tablespoons filling in center of each chicken piece, spreading out a bit. 

3. Roll the filled chicken

Roll chicken up, enclosing filling. Place seam side down on work surface.Open fillo package and keep covered with a damp towel.

Remove four single sheets of fillo and lay out on work surface.

Brush each with melted butter and lay another sheet of fillo on top of each buttered sheet.

Butter the top of the second sheets and lay a third sheet of fillo on top of that.

Leave the third sheet of fillo unbuttered.

Arrange each fillo stack so short end is facing you.

Arrange one filled and rolled chicken breast on top of each prepared fillo stack, toward the bottom.

                Brush fillo with egg wash.Fold long sides inward to encase chicken breast. 

4. Egg wash around the chicken

Brush around chicken breast with egg wash. 

5. Fold fillo sides inward

Fold long sides of fillo inward. 

6. Roll, baby, roll

Roll up, brushing egg wash as you go to seal fillo.Place fillo-wrapped chicken on buttered baking sheet, seam-side down, leaving space between.


7. Brush with butter and bake on buttered baking sheet

Brush fillo-wrapped chicken rolls with melted butter.Bake on middle rack in preheated oven for 30 minutes, until phyllo is golden brown all over.

Remove from oven.

Serve hot.



Sydne George is a food journalist specializing in recipe development, food writing and food photography. She can be reached at sydnegeorge@hotmail.com . Sydne’s recipes from “Special of the day” are archived at http://sydnegeorge.com/blog/.

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