Thursday, December 1, 2011

Phyllo with Leeks, Chanterelles, and Fontina

One of the biggest joys and challenges with holiday entertaining is coming up with something a little different for cocktail hour.  It's not like summer where you can pick something fresh out of the garden or farmer's market, do something minimal to it, and have a perfect representation of the season.  Winter demands more time, attention, and heat.

In this case, I decided to raid the freezer in which we preserved the bounty of our gardens and the items we foraged and caught.  We've got however many cubic feet of smoked salmon, leeks, green beans, and chanterelles put up for the winter (not to mention the obscene number of quarts of zucchini pickles, apple butter, and currant jelly, carrots, beets, potatoes, and butternuts in the back pantry).

I took two of these items: leeks and chanterelles.  From there, I decided to marry them together with a bit of fontina cheese and hold them with phyllo dough.  To start, since I had the leeks and mushrooms already cooked and frozen, I thawed them out together in a small saute pan and cooked them over low heat until they were fairly dry.  When you're working with phyllo, you don't want too much moisture in the filling or the dough will become soggy and may rupture during baking.  I added salt to taste, but it seemed a little flat.  Both leeks and chanterelles have some natural sweetness to them, so I decided to go with nutmeg to liven up the flavor profile a bit.  It rounded everything out nicely.  The flavors here are subtle yet satisfying in a delicate way.

Phyllo with Leeks, Chanterelles, and Fontina 
yield: 18-20 pieces

2 T butter, plus 4T melted and reserved
3 leeks, dark parts and root trimmed
2-2 1/2 cups chopped chanterelles
1/8 t freshly grated nutmeg
salt and pepper to taste
1 scant cup grated fontina
8 sheets phyllo dough

To clean the leeks, have a bowl of ice water ready to the side.  Cut the leeks lengthwise, and then crosswise into 1/4" half-moons.  Immerse the pieces in the water and agitate every few minutes to help dislodge the sand particles tucked in between the layers.  The leeks will float, and the sand will sink, so when you feel the leeks are clean, just lift them off the top of the water into a new vessel.

In a medium saute pan, melt the 2 T of butter and saute the mushrooms until all of the moisture has been released.  Add the leeks and cook over low heat until tender.  Season to taste with salt, pepper, and nutmeg, then allow to cool slightly.  You should end up with about 1 1/2 cups cooked filling.

On a clean board, lay out two sheets of phyllo, keeping the rest under a tea towel to prevent them from drying out.  Brush generously with butter, then add two more sheets, and brush those as well (you don't have to brush in between each layer unless you really feel like it).  Brush a baking sheet with a bit of butter so you have somewhere to land.  Along one of the longer edges, make a log out of about 3/4 cup of the leek mixture, and top with half of the fontina.  Roll snugly and place on the baking sheet with the seam side down.  Brush with butter, then score the phyllo to create nine or ten pieces.  You don't have to cut all the way through- cutting about half way reduces breakage and flaking after you've baked them and are ready to separate the pieces.  Repeat with the second half of the ingredients.

At this point, you can either cover and refrigerate the rolls for up to 24 hours, or you can bake them off immediately in a 400F oven.  It should take 15-20 minutes to get the phyllo nice and browned, and the filling nice and hot.  After removing from the oven, cool slightly, then transfer to a cutting board and cut the rest of the way through.  Serve warm with something dry and sparkling.

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