Worth the fuss: Part 2

Cynthia
Cynthia Stone
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Cynthia Stone

If I remember correctly, you are due fabulous main and side dish recipes to go with last week's soup and dessert. I think I can deliver.

Chicken marsala in phyllo

Phyllo dough falls on the fussy side of cooking, but it's worth it when the result is buttery and crisp, wrapped around a creamy, flavourful filling. This classic chicken dish is delicious on its own without even bothering with the pastry. If you'd like to do that, add a few extra spoonfuls of broth so the mixture is not quite as stiff and consider reducing the salt and pepper by a pinch each. When you wrap anything in dough, it mutes the flavours, so you have to bump them up inside the packets. The number of packets you make depends on how much filling you put in each, but this amount will fill 8 medium large packets or 12 smaller ones. Don't worry about a sauce because this mixture is juicy enough that when you break through the flaky pastry it will spill out, velvety and fabulous, onto your plate.

Filling:

1-1/2 cups dry Marsala

1-1/2 cups low-sodium chicken broth

1 fresh or 2 dried bay leaves

2 tbsp. butter, preferably unsalted

2 tbsp. olive oil

1/4 cup finely diced pancetta or regular bacon

2 stalks celery, finely diced

1 medium onion, finely chopped

4 cups chopped fresh mushrooms, mixed varieties if possible

3 large or 4 medium boneless skinless chicken breasts

1 tsp. each salt and freshly ground black pepper

2 tsp. chopped fresh thyme

1 tsp. dried oregano

4 tbsp. flour

1/2 cup chopped fresh Italian flat-leaf parsley (2 full bunches)

1 tbsp. fresh lemon juice

Phyllo:

1/2 package phyllo pastry, completely thawed

1/3 cup melted butter, preferably unsalted

1/4 tsp. each coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper

In a small pot, bring Marsala, chicken broth and bay leaves to a boil and simmer until halved in volume; set aside. Melt butter in oil in a Dutch oven over medium heat. Fry pancetta until completely rendered. Remove from pan and set aside. Add celery, onion and mushrooms to pan and fry until golden brown. Allow all the moisture released from the mushrooms to evaporate. Cut chicken breasts into 3/4 to 1-inch cubes and add to pan. Fry until about halfway cooked and add salt, pepper, thyme and oregano; reduce the salt by a bit if you used salted butter. Return pancetta to the pot and whisk in the flour. When it disappears and completely coats the mixture in the pan, whisk in the reduced wine-broth mixture. Cook, stirring, until thick and smooth. Discard bay leaves. Stir in parsley and lemon juice and taste. If it's not just a little saltier than how you would like to serve it as is, add a pinch more. Allow to cool to room temperature. At this point you can refrigerate the mixture up to overnight - great do-ahead idea for a dinner party.

Unfold thawed phyllo dough and peel off about half the sheets. Wrap up the remaining half and set aside - you probably won't need it but don't put it back in the freezer yet. You can refreeze unused phyllo and it's fine for several weeks, by the way.

With a sharp knife, cut the phyllo sheets you are going to use in half and cover with a sheet of plastic wrap and a damp towel. Melt butter. Place 1 layer of dough on a clean work surface and brush lightly with butter. Repeat with 2 more layers. Place a generous spoonful of the cooled chicken mushroom mixture close to one edge of the stacked layers of dough. Roll over once or twice to enclose the filling, then tuck in the ends. Continue rolling until the filling is completely enclosed and you have a package. Flatten lightly with your palm so it's not completely round. Brush the outside with butter and sprinkle a pinch of the coarse salt and pepper on top. Continue until all the filling is used up. Place on a parchment paper lined baking sheet and bake at 375 F for 15 to 20 minutes or until phyllo is golden brown.

Balsamic glazed broccoli and carrots

With the meat and starch all looked after in those phyllo packets, all you need is a colourful and delicious side dish to round out that perfect, if a little fussy, meal. Here it is. Use baby carrots if you're looking for convenience, but the bigger the carrot the bigger the flavour. I also appreciate the retro look of carrot wheels - perfect with an old-fashioned chicken dish. This amount makes about 4 servings.

1 tbsp. each olive oil and butter

2 cloves garlic, peeled and lightly crushed but left whole

1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes (more or less to taste)

2 cups carrot wheels

1/4 cup chicken or vegetable broth or water

4 cups broccoli florets

1 tbsp. good quality balsamic vinegar

1 tbsp. chopped fresh tarragon (optional)

1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper

Heat oil and butter together in a large pan over medium heat. Add garlic and red pepper flakes and fry until fragrant and garlic is golden brown. Remove and discard garlic. Add carrots to pan and bobble around for a couple of minutes. Add broth, cover and simmer 5 minutes. If you use water instead of broth add a pinch of salt. Add broccoli and balsamic vinegar. Cover and simmer 2 or 3 minutes, then uncover and continue to cook until most of the liquid has evaporated and the vegetables are glistening. Stir in the tarragon and black pepper and serve.

Cynthia Stone is a writer, editor and teacher in St. John's. Questions may be sent to her c/o The Telegram, P.O. Box 86, St. John's, NL, A1E 4N1

Organizations: The Telegram

Geographic location: St. John's

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