Saturday, February 18, 2006

Sports drool, but the Olympics rule!

Here’s the weird thing. I hate sports, but I love the Olympics. In fact, during the ladies’ gymnastic finals in 2004, my friend and I were camping on Cape Cod. I actually had to seek out a sports bar in Sandwich so that we could watch—imagine that—me, at a SPORTS BAR! Boggles the mind! Tee hee. This time around, as I am nocturnal, I find myself watching the repeat of primetime broadcasting from Turin/Torino/Tarantino/whatever until the wee hours of the morning. And I can hardly wait until ladies' figure skating, my favorite!

In honor of the Olympics, I would like to share a wonderful recipe from my brilliant colleague and friend, Dr. Becky Kasper. She was kind enough to invite me to her Christmas party this year. It was held at her parents’ gorgeous house on Lake Champlain (you could see right across the water to the lights of Burlington, Vermont). There had been a light snowfall, a fire was lit in the big stone fireplace, there was wonderful company—not the least of which was her precious mom, Lillian—and the food, mercy, the FOOD! Becky and her mom really put out a remarkable spread, and I actually spent part of the evening engaged in culinary espionage, rummaging through their cookbooks to unearth the recipes for the wonderful things that they served. Among my favorites were the blue cheese popovers (from Martha’s hors d’oeuvres book), risotto cakes served with pesto (from Italian Classics by Cook’s Illustrated—a wonderful book!), and assorted cheeses including Maytag blue and a lovely aged gouda. The desserts included a chocolate-topped cheesecake, the best sugar cookies I’ve ever had, and a gorgeous buche de noel crafted from some sort of pumpkin gingerbread. Oh, and the most divine homemade eggnog, too, from an old military wives’ cookbook. It was a truly magical evening!

But one of the best recipes that I managed to pilfer from my hosts was the one that Becky was most proud of, as she developed it herself for the last summer Olympics, in honor of the return to their birthplace of Athens, Greece. She aptly named it Chicken Olympic, and though it is rich, it is just scrumptious, and if you only partake of it every two years, you should live to see the next Olympics roll around! ;-) Below is my version of her recipe with only minor adjustments (as her notes were a bit sketchy!). I hope you try it and enjoy some while you are rooting the U.S. team onto the gold!

Chicken Olympic

3 boneless chicken breasts, cubed
½ cup lemon juice
2 tablespoons olive oil

1 large onion, finely chopped
2 packages frozen spinach, thawed and squeezed of excess water
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup mozzarella, shredded
1/2 cup feta, crumbled
2 tablespoons parmesan, grated
1 egg, lightly beaten

1 cup mayonnaise
2 tablespoons lemon juice (or to taste)
½ teaspoon salt (or to taste)
2 tablespoons dried oregano
¼ cup (4 or 5) green onions, chopped

20 sheets phyllo dough, thawed (one sleeve of 9”x14” sheets from a “twin pack” box)
butter, melted (less than one stick)

Marinate chicken pieces in lemon juice for at least two hours, then cook in olive oil until about halfway done (still somewhat pink inside). Set aside. Saute onion in olive oil until softened. Add spinach, and cook until heated through. Cool mixture to room temperature before adding cheeses, and mixing in the beaten egg. In a separate bowl, combine the mayo, lemon juice, salt, oregano, and green onions. Set aside.

Take one sheet of phyllo dough and brush lightly with butter. Top with another sheet and butter that one. Continue until you have completed five sheets. In a row on the long side of the phyllo (at least an inch from the edge and each end), place half of the spinach and cheese filling. Top with half of the chicken cubes, and then top with half of the sauce. Cover with another five sheets of phyllo, one at a time, tucking each sheet down and around the filling, then brushing lightly with butter before adding the next sheet. Fold in the ends, and roll like a jellyroll to the end. Place the finished roll on a lined baking sheet, and butter the top. Repeat this entire process to make a second roll. Bake them at 350 degrees for about 20 minutes, or until golden brown and crispy. Cut into thick slices and serve.

No comments: