Wednesday, October 29, 2008

kitchen project

so I write a scathing indictment of people who don't vote and I can hear the crickets chirping. Pictures of the dog get oodles of comments. go figure. Here's a diversion from the usual political stuff that seems to be overwhelming us all of late.

Last fall, I spent a couple of months as a cook at a funky little restaurant in Bar Harbor. The Cafe Bluefish is known worldwide for its lobster strudel, and it is divine. While I was there, I learned how to make the lobster strudel, and the seafood strudel and the spinach strudel. I am NOT going to post those recipes here. I was entrusted with them, and that's that.

However, I have created a variation on a theme of the strudel thing. See, the original recipe calls for cooking sherry, and I don't use alcohol in my kitchen. It also uses soybean oil and soy products, and a family member has a life-threatening allergy to soy, so I don't use it here. Also, L has a life-threatening allergy to crustaceans (not mollusks, just crustaceans) so I do not use lobster or crab or shrimp.

So that doesn't leave a lot of the original stuff for me to work with. Except the method. So I took the method I learned and applied it to ingredients that won't kill me or my family, and came up with a chicken and spinach four-cheese strudel that seems to work.

Again, in order to protect anything that might be construed as proprietary information, I am only going to describe the basics of what I included. If you are really determined, I imagine you can fiddle around and find some kind of proportions that work for you, but let me tell you, making these things is an all-day project that dirties every pot, pan, bowl and cutting surface in the kitchen. I cannot imagine doing this multiple times to tweak a recipe into something perfect.

Here are the basics:

Chicken breasts, boiled, skin and bones removed, diced (10, I think)
Lots of feta
Lots of swiss
Lots of cream cheese
Lots of leftover partial bags of not terribly freezer-burned mozzarella
Five huge bags of frozen chopped spinach
five pounds of onions, cut up and caramelized

phyllo dough
unsalted butter

So I mixed the top stuff together in the biggest bowl I own and it barely held it all. I brushed the butter on the phyllo, stacked them nicely, and wrapped the dough around a scoop (about 2/3 to 3/4 cup) of the filling.

This recipe cost me about $80 in groceries and made around 40 of these things, 36 of which went straight into the freezer. The ones in this picture were a little over-sized and made in the au gratin gizmos for our supper last night, but they look like elongated versions of the typical round strudels served at the restaurant. I have some filling left over, too, that I think I might put in a pie crust for supper tonight. (I ran out of phyllo before I ran out of filling.) The total estimated cost of these things is about two bucks a piece, plus my labor. Even if I charged $100 for labor (eight hours at $12.50), that still only brings the price per entree-sized portion up to something less than $6 each. Not bad. But I'm not selling them. These will be on hand all winter to be dinner when we need them. The marvelous thing is that we can take out as many as we need for a meal, so if we suddenly have guests, no problem, we can expand the menu without having to go shopping. Just thaw a little, and pop in the oven on a cookie sheet. Fabulous.

The nice thing about the project is that I won't have to make them again this winter. And that is a very, very, good thing. My kitchen is now wrecked. It will take a couple of days for me to recover completely.

More politics later this week. For now we are enjoying the crispy phyllo and cheesy goodness of the strudels.


Robin said...

Those look delicious, and the lobster one sounds utterly devine. If only I could get lobster here...

I make savory strudel type things with puff pastry. Not quite as delicate but a lot faster and easier to work with ;-).

laughingatchaos said...

Those look divine...too bad I can't have the puff pastry...and the dairy...nuts. ;)

1138 said...

Thanks I may try this
I cannot eat the crustaceans either which is heartbreaking when you consider my father was a lobsterman with his own bat in Stonington that I worked with a few summers pulling traps as a kid and my Grandmother used to work at the old cannery that used to be there. I hear there is a treatment to cure the allergy in the works - I'm hopeful.

1138 said...

robin I think we could find a way to get you the Lobster, even in Israel

1138 said...

Oops my grandfather not father, although my father was part of the family business until he got old enough to enlist and leave home.

Family child labor was a given back in the 30's 40's and 50's.
Probably even the 60's and part of the 70's.

1138 said...

and boat not bat - geesh take the keyboard away from me