Chicken Spanakopita, not traditional but oh so good!

Spanakopita is a Greek dish, usually an appetizer, that has feta cheese (or ricotta) and spinach wrapped in phyllo (filo) pastry dough. I love it, the husband loves it, the little one says "I like it a little bit". I however can't afford feta/ricotta very often (if it's something other than cheddar or mozzarella in a block, it has to be a splurge to buy it). We also enjoy meat over here, and chicken breast is a lean meat that works well with the spinach and cheese.

So what do I do? Well change up the traditional Spanakopita dish to my liking :)! Phyllo (also called filo) dough can be found in the same area of the freezer section as puff pastry and pie crust (I don't even want to attempt to make this stuff because of being so very thin and working with it already made is already a chore for me).
Chicken Spanakopita

Following the instructions on the box, thaw out your phyllo (a couple of hours out on the counter should do it or over night in the fridge). Grab 2-3 chicken breasts (or if you have left over chicken from another night should be good as well) and season with salt and pepper, I also used some lemon herb seasoning to make the chicken taste a little more Greek (lemon with meats reminds me of Greek tasting food). Heat up either a non-stick pan or a pan with a little olive oil in the bottom and cook the breasts up in there. Once they are done the juices should run clear and the meat on the inside should be white. Take them out of the pan and set them to the side to cool a moment.

While you allow this to cool down, chop up 1 onion and about 3 cups of fresh spinach (frozen works too, but I got lucky and found some good looking fresh spinach. I also would not suggest using canned spinach as I think it would be too hard to get the liquid out, and I don't like it but that's a personal choice :) ). Add a little more oil to the pan (even if it's a non-stick pan) and add the onion to the pan to let them soften a little before adding in the spinach. Let this cook about 2-3 minutes, the spinach should cook down a bit and not be quite so bulky but will still be a vibrant dark green. Shred about 2 cups of low fat cheese (or if you're lucky use feta or ricotta, one recipe I saw also suggested cream cheese). The spinach/onion mix should be added to a bowl with the cheese.

I then do something definitely different than the traditional. Because the cheeses that are usually in Spanakopita happen to be more soft (at least in the case of ricotta) or have extra liquid (most feta I find that's not packaged in a bag, is in liquid) tends to make the filling moist. I fix my drier mixture by adding in about half a cup of plain 0% yogurt. This not only adds moister but it also add the tang that you would normally get from the feta.

Now that you are letting the spinach mixture cool down, it's time to move back to the chicken. Take two forks and shred you chicken so that it's in little pieces and add it to the spinach mixture. Now you're ready to start wrapping the phyllo around your mixture.

Chicken Spanakopita

I'm not sure how well I'll be able to describe this with out using pictures, but hopefully it will come across accurately (if not there should be a diagram on the phyllo dough box). Unfold your dough and take one sheet, placing it on a clean surface. Take melted butter (I like a melted butter/olive oil mixture so it's not so much butter, not sure how well just oil works :) ) and a brush. Brush the butter over the pastry, this acts like a glue, and then take another phyllo sheet and place it on top of the first, so that it covers it. Take a knife and cut 4 rows length wise down the sheet, making sure they are in separate strips.

Take a spoonful of the spinach/chicken mixture and put it near (but not at) one end of the phyllo strip. Fold the end over the mixture from one corner up. It should look like a triangle. Next fold the other corner straight up, should still be in a triangle shape. Repeat till you get to the end, brush butter on the end to seal it as you do the last fold. Place on a oiled or sprayed cookie sheet, and repeat till the cookie sheet is full and put it in a pre-heated oven at 350F. The instructions on the phyllo dough box usually suggests brushing the butter on the top of the folded, uncooked spanakopita before baking in the oven to give it a nice brown color, I however have found not to need to do this.
Chicken Spanakopita
My version is definitely not traditional, but it's healthy, tasty and can be used to whet the appetite or to go with a nice salad (a Greek salad would be perfect with this) for a light dinner or lunch, of course it's only light if you can stop eating them!
**Edit: In light of my mother trying this and it not working quite how she thought it should (but her words were that "It tasted !@#$!@# good!") I decided to look up a site with a diagram and step by step photos and found one @ Dilip's Cooking Scroll down past Spanakopita, Hearty Mushroom Bake, and Baklava! to where it says " Pear Filo Triangles" for photos and a diagram. When I make it again I will do my own photos weather or not I have good lighting :D**


Bonnie said...

I made this the taste was great. I did have trouble with the making of them. You e-mailed me the way to get them rolled up. I am sure they will work better next time I make them. And I will becouse they are sooooo good. The kids loved them.