phyllo dough

Armenian Cheese Phyllo Packets

Burek

As Maggie Saab, whose family was from Kilis, Armenia (today part of Turkey), taught Lindsay Sterling in Falmouth, MA.

Cooking Time: 45 minutes (plus thawing something in the fridge over night)
Serves 8-16 as an appetizer or along with a meal

Ingredients

  • 1 box phyllo dough
  • 1 cup shredded mild, unsalty cheese (she preferrs Munster)
  • 1 cup feta cheese
  • 5-6 sprigs parsley, leaves picked and roughly chopped
  • 2 Tbsp butter
  • 2 Tbsp oil
  • 1/4 cup sesame seeds

Equipment

  • sheet pan or backing sheet
  • parchment paper
  • pastry brush
  • 2 small bowls
  • 1 medium bowl
  • cheese grater

Instructions

The night before:

1. The night before you want to cook, thaw the phyllo dough out in the fridge.

The day of:

2. about an hour before cooking put the phyllo on the counter to bring to room temperature before working with it.

3. Preheat the oven to 375. Melt the butter and add the oil to the butter in a small dish. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.

4. Mix the cheeses together with chopped parsley in a medium mixing bowl.

5. Open the phyllo dough and unroll it so you have a stack of rectangular sheets. Keep a clean towel handy for covering the stack when you're not using it. This keeps the sheets from drying out and breaking.

6. Take two sheets from the stack at once and place them in front of you with the short end of the rectangle facing you. With a paring knife cut the rectangle in half the long way, making two really tall rectangles. Brush butter along the edges of each rectangle with the pastry brush.

7. Place a spoonful of cheese mixture at the bottom of each rectangle. Then fold the bottom edge of the phyllo over the filling and line it up with side edge so that you start to form a triangle. Then keep folding the triangle up the phyllo dough. You effectively close in the filling and make each triangle have many layers of pastry. Brilliant! Fold the triangle until you can fold no more. (If you've ever folded a flag into a neat triangle it's the same idea here).

8. Place the burek on the lined cookie sheet. Make as many more as you can with your ingredients. Brush the tops of the burek with the butter/oil, stab the tops with a sharp knife to let steam out while cooking, and sprinkle sesame seeds on each. Bake them in the oven 'til golden.

Maggie Saab (right) shares her favorite dish from Armenia.

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Albanian/Greek Chicken Pie

Kotopita

As Bill Dilios, from Politsani, Albania (formerly part of Greece), taught Lindsay Sterling in Freeport, ME.

Serves: 10 for dinner, 20 as an appetizer or side
Cooking Time: 2 hours plus thawing overnight

Ingredients

  • 1 box phyllo dough
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 4 large yellow or sweet onions, medium dice
  • 1 stick butter, cut into 1/2" chunks + 1 stick butter
  • 4 chicken breasts, cut into 1/2" cubs
  • 1 1/2 cups long grain white rice
  • 3 cups chicken stock
  • 1 boullion cube, 1 tsp boullion paste, or 1 tsp salt
  • 3 eggs

Equipment

  • cutting board
  • chef knife
  • mixing spoon
  • large soup pot 
  • large mixing bowl
  • medium bowl
  • pastry brush
  • Bill's special kotopita pan [link to store]:
  • or 3 pie plates
  • or 2 9x12, 2-inch deep baking dishes 

Instructions

1. Thaw phyllo dough. The day before you want to make kotopita, transfer the phyllo dough box from the freezer to the fridge to thaw it. Then an hour before you want to start cooking, take the phyllo box out of the fridge and let it come to room temperature on the counter. If you forget to take the phyllo out of the freezer the night before, you can thaw it on the counter in 2-3 hours. 

2. Make the filling. Saute onions with 2 Tbsp oil and 1 stick butter (cut into chunks) until onions are soft, 5-10 minutes. Cut the chicken pieces into 1/2 inch cubes and add to the onions. Wash all surfaces that raw chicken touched.  When chicken is half-cooked (opaque on the outside but still translucent in the center), add rice and saute for 2 minutes without browning anything. Add chicken stock so that the rice is just floating in liquid, about 3 cups. Add crushed bouillon cube, bouillon paste, or salt as desired and incorporate. Saute, stirring frequently, until the liquid disappears and you have a thick mass of chicken and rice with no runny liquid. Remove from stove and let cool. Mix in three eggs.

3. Preheat oven to 395. 

4. Assemble the pie. See how he did it in this video. You melt a stick of butter in cereal bowl and get a pastry brush out. Bill made one awesome, giant pie in a what looked like an extra-large, deep-dish pizza pan. Alternatively you can use three pie dishes or 2 9x12 baking dishes. Brush the bottom and sides of the baking dish with olive oil. Layer whole phyllo sheets over the bottom of baking dish, overlapping the edges of the pan by roughly 2 inches. (No folding, cutting or fussing!). 

Now be like Jackson Pollock with the butter brush dripping melted butter on the phyllo. You don't need to brush the butter around - just drip enough butter so that it looks like it's starting to rain on a sidewalk. Make another layer of phyllo overlapping the edges again. Drizzle butter again. Layer phyllo again. Drizzle butter again. When you have about five layers of phyllo, make a layer of chicken filling about 1/2" inch deep. Cover with two more layers of phyllo/butter drips. Add another layer of filling about 1/2" deep. Do five more layers of phyllo. Fold all the draped edges of phyllo on top of the pie. Brush butter over the dry edges of phyllo, folding them down onto the pie. 

If you are using multiple pies, when you complete one pie, just follow the same process and make another one in another dish. 

5. Bake for about 40 minutes, turning the temp down to 385 after ten minutes. When the entire pie is golden brown, remove from oven and let the pie cool for 10-20 minutes. 

Bill Dilios teaches how to cook his favorite dish from Politsani, Albania.

6. Serve. A cool trick for cutting the pie: place a large cutting board (one that is bigger than the pie itself) over the top of the pie. Holding the pan and the cutting board together, flip them over so that the pan ends up upside down on top of the cutting board. Now just lift the pan off the pie. Use a serrated bread knife to pie into squares or wedges, depending on what look you want.

Once pie is cool, store leftover pie in tinfoil in the fridge for up to 3 days. Reheat in a 350 degree oven or toaster oven.

 

 

Bosnian-Serb Meat Pie

Burek

As Sanja Bukarac, from Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina, taught Lindsay Sterling in Portland, Maine. Illustration by Margaret Owen. Photos by Matt Boutet.

Serves: 9
Cooking Time: 1:15

Ingredients

  • 1 package phyllo dough
  • 1 Tbsp vegetable oil
  • 2 pounds ground meat (she used beef, veal and pork)
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup plain Greek yogurt
  • 2 bunches scallions, sliced into rounds
  • salt
  • pepper
  • bottle of plain kefir
  • sour cream (optional)

Instructions

1. One day before cooking transfer phyllo from the freezer to the fridge. One hour before cooking, transfer phyllo box to the counter. Leave it all wrapped up; you don't want the filo to dry out.

2. In a large saute pan with a little oil, saute ground meat with scallions until the meat loses all raw pink spots and is evenly brown. I didn't see her drain the meat of liquified fat, but I had a lot so I drained it off. Season with salt and pepper. In a separate container whisk together the eggs and yogurt. Grease a rectangular baking dish with spray cooking oil. Preheat oven to 385.

3. On a large cutting board or tray, lay out 2 sheets of filo on top of one another with the long side of the rectangle facing you. Spoon ground beef onto the phyllo dough in the shape of a line about an inch thick parallel to the long edge closest to you, leaving an inch of phyllo on each end meatless. Use about 1/2 cup ground beef mixture to make the line. Drizzle yogurt mixture over the top. Roll the phyllo over the meat and keep rolling so you have a long cylander of meat rolled in phyllo. Be quick and confident when working with phyllo, and use as few touches as possible to do what you need to do. For example, just leave the roll you just did where it finished rolling as opposed to moving it somewhere. The more you touch phyllo, the more it falls apart. Cover it with a clean kitchen towel if you need to step away for a minute - otherwise it dries and breaks easily. Make 2 more of meat-in-phyllo rolls.

4. Now put another two sheets of phyllo down, this time off-setting them by 3 inches vertically to give you a little more surface area to roll the three meat rolls you just made inside these sheets of phyllo. Before you roll them up, spoon yogurt mixture in a zig zag pattern across all three rolls. Once they're bundled in the phyllo, transfer this "roll of rolls" into the baking dish, seam side down. Repeat this step two more times, fitting rolls flush against each other in the baking dish.

5. Spray the top of the meat pie with cooking oil and bake until golden and crispy, about 45 minutes. Cover with a clean kitchen towel for ten minutes to help the interior be soft.

Slice cross sections and serve with forks, and glasses of plain kefir with spoons. Instruct your guests to alternate bites of meat pie and spoonfuls of kefir. Also, some like a little sour cream with their meat pie.