Friday, July 15, 2011

Phyllo-Wrapped Chicken and Duxelles

Phyllo pastry! The very words make strong cooks quiver - and weak ones weep. It’s not difficult to work with phyllo pastry - though some people think it is. If you’re one of them, I’ll soon disabuse you of that notion.
If you’ve never worked with phyllo before, see my blogs dated April 16, 2011, for Baklava and for Potato, Wild Mushroom, and Cambozola Strudel. All of these delicious recipes will make you a phyllo fan! As I mentioned then, you’ll find it in your grocer's freezer case; it’s best thawed overnight, in your fridge. You can rewrap and refreeze the unused phyllo sheets. “Filo,” as it’s sometimes spelled, is a handy ingredient to stock in your home freezer. 
I’m not a professional chef, so at my level of cooking, I classify this dish as “gourmet.” It requires slightly more effort than something like baked pork chops, but I’m sure you’ll find the results well worth while. Because some cooks shy away from phyllo, it’s sure to wow whomever you ask to dinner. I’ve made this recipe often, but when I prepared it for Ron a few days ago, he was certainly wowed! Because this dish is so rich, I suggest you serve it with a simple green salad. When I made it for Ron, I served it with fresh green beans and Brown Rice Salad with Mango Chutney Dressing (I’ll give you this extraordinary rice salad recipe tomorrow. It's one of my summer favorites!).
Phyllo-Wrapped Chicken and Duxelles:
For the Duxelles: 

1-to-2 tbsp. butter (no substitutes) (see Note)
2 tbsp. finely chopped shallots
1 garlic clove, crushed
2 tsp. fresh tarragon, finely chopped (or 2 tsp. dried leaf tarragon)
1 c. very finely chopped mushrooms
2-to-3 tbsp. heavy cream (33% milk fat) (see Further Note)
Salt and pepper, to taste

If you’ve never made mushrooms “duxelles,” you’re in for a treat! Have all ingredients prepared and ready. Turn your element to “high” (or very close to it). Add butter to a medium skillet, swirling it just above the stove element as it melts, so it doesn’t burn. The butter should be very hot when you add the shallots, garlic, and tarragon. 

Using a silicone spatula, flip this mixture every 5-to-10 seconds, giving it good exposure to the base of the hot pan, sautéing about 1 min. Add the mushrooms, sautéing 2 min. longer, until the mushroom mixture is tender. Reduce this mixture to a paste, stirring constantly. Add cream 1 tbsp. at a time, stirring well after each addition. Season to taste with salt and finely ground pepper. Set aside.

Note: Use only just enough butter to lightly coat the bottom of the pan, so the food sautés and doesn’t sizzle or slide around the pan.

Further Note: Adding a little whipping cream towards the end enhances the rich flavor of the duxelles - but dont add too much or you’ll have mushroom sauce, which you definitely don’t want in this recipe. Duxelles can be used as a garnish over steak, or - as in this recipe - as a delicate complement to the chicken filling. 

For the Chicken Filling:

2 whole chicken breasts, boned and skinned
2 tbsp. butter (no substitutes) 
1/2 c. sliced mushrooms

Using the flat side of a meat mallet or heavy cleaver, flatten chicken breasts slightly. Sliver into ½-inch wide strips. Turn your element to “high” (or very close to it). Add butter to a large, clean skillet, swirling it just above the stove element as it melts, so it doesn’t burn. 

Add slivered chicken, browning quickly until no pink remains. Remove with tongs or slotted spoon. Set aside in bowl, but do not wash skillet. Sauté sliced mushrooms in same skillet, about 2 min. Turn heat to low. Return chicken mixture and finely minced duxelles to skillet, combining until chicken is well coated with duxelles. Set aside to cool.

For the Phyllo Wrap:

5 sheets phyllo pastry
1/3 c. butter, melted
1 egg
1 tsp. water
Preheat oven to 425 deg. F. Thaw, unwrap, and peel off five phyllo pastry sheets. Rewrap and return remaining phyllo sheets to freezer for another time. Phyllo dries out quickly, so keep it covered with a clean, damp tea towel as you work with it. Place the first sheet on your work surface, dabbing with melted butter. Top with second and subsequent phyllo sheets, dabbing each except the last one entirely with melted butter. 

With this sheet, brush melted butter as a 2-inch border around the outside edges. Arrange cooled chicken and duxelles mixture lengthwise along a third of the phyllo pastry, leaving a 2-inch border around edges. Carefully fold bottom of phyllo sheets over chicken mixture; repeat with sides. 

Roll up and over, jelly-roll style, ensuring seam is at bottom. Transfer to parchment-lined baking sheet, seam-side down. Swirl egg and water to combine. Brush over phyllo-wrapped chicken. Bake 15-to-20 min., until pastry is golden. Serve immediately, slicing into 6-to-8 pieces.

Phyllo-Wrapped Chicken, top right, with fresh green beans
and Brown Rice Salad with Mango Chutney Dressing


  1. I am trying to do some prep ahead for Easter.Can I prepare the wrapped up chicken and phyllo ahead and leave in my refrigerator tghtly covered for a couple hours then bring to room temp and then pop in oven?

    1. This gorgeous recipe is well worth the effort for a special meal such as Easter. To phyllo-wrap the chicken 2 hr. in advance, cover and refrigerate it in its baking dish but do not apply the egg wash until it's ready for baking. Keep the chicken chilled: I wouldn't allow it to linger at room temperature for more than 10 min. before you bake it. xox Nicole

  2. Replies
    1. Dear Anonymous: Because YOU made this dish for Easter dinner 2014, I thought I'd make it, too. The good news is that the advice I gave you above worked perfectly. I made the dish 2 hr. in advance, egg-washed it just as it went into the oven, and it was fabulous.
      The bad news is that I was still a novice blogger when I wrote this recipe, and did a very poor job of writing out the instructions correctly. You probably noticed the typos and other little problems that made this recipe hard to follow. I've fixed that now, and thank you for your patience. This recipe is a GREAT company dish! xox Nicole


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