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Monday, June 28, 2010

Mushroom, Leek, and Goat Cheese Phyllo Triangles

I'm experimenting with lots of little yummies lately.  I've always been partial to appetizers, tiny flavorful cuties.  Along the same lines, I like the "small bites" concept and hope to experiment a bit with that, and I also like the "deconstructed" concept, reducing familiar foods to their individual components and showcasing the ingredients.

Sometimes I get inspired by the idea of a food combination that I think will be really tasty and I'll Google search the ingredients I'm interested in until I find some recipes that seem promising, then combine components of the recipes, hoping to create the masterpiece that I envision.  Of course, sometimes my idea falls flat; however, sometimes my inspiration produces exactly what I hoped to achieve and it's scrumptious.

I wanted to create an unctious, crispy appetizer featuring assorted mushrooms, leeks, and goat cheese wrapped in crispy phyllo dough to serve at a recent birthday celebration.  I combined ideas from a couple of recipes and here's what I came up with.  Everyone seemed to enjoy it and I hope you will too ...

Mushroom, Leek, and Goat Cheese Phyllo Triangles

2 pounds assorted mushrooms (I used creminini, shiitake, and oyster)
Oive oil to coat pan
2 leeks
2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh thyme
Healthy splash of sherry
8 ounces goat cheese
Salt and freshly ground pepper
Phyllo dough (number of sheets needed will vary according to volume of filling, but phyllo is typically packed in two bags per box and you'll probably not quite use up one of the bags)
1 stick butter

Clean up mushrooms.  I know some people say to just brush them, but I prefer to gently rinse them.  It's up to you.  With a paring knife trim away the very ends of the mushroom stems.  The exception is the shiitakes.  Their stems are virtually inedible, so completely detach the stems from the shiitake caps.  (Remember to put your mushroom trimmings and all your other veggie trimmings into a ziplock bag and pop it into the freezer so that you can simmer up some veggie broth later.  It's liquid gold, I tell you.)  Roughly chop all the mushrooms.

Prepare the leeks.  Look at your leeks and find the point where the leaves start "branching out."  Cut just below that branch-off spot and toss the upper, darker-colored leafy leek parts into your veggie freezer bag.  Trim away the root ends from the leeks.  Cut the leeks into quarters lengthwise.  Put them in a very large bowl of cold water and separate them into individual leaves.  Rinse very well, draining the water and refilling the bowl as necessary.  Leeks can be very sandy and you need to be sure to clean out all the grit.  Clean very, very well.

After draining the leaks, slice them very thin.  Coat a large nonstick saute pan with olive oil.  Heat to medium.  Add leeks to pan, sprinkle with a couple healthy pinches of kosher salt (to help draw the moisture out of the leeks), and sweat until softened but not browned.  Remove leeks to a sieve or collander placed over a mixing bowl.  Place a bowl over the leeks in the sieve or collander and weight it down with a heavy can from your pantry to press the extra moisture out of the leeks.

While leeks are draining, again coat your saute pan with olive oil.  Add chopped mushrooms to pan and sprinkle with a couple healthy pinches of kosher salt to help draw the moisture out of the mushrooms.  Saute until the mushrooms are cooked through.  Add a couple healthy splashes of sherry  and several grinds of black pepper and continue cooking until all the sherry is absorbed.  Remove from heat and add the fresh thyme.

Cool the cooked mushrooms a little, then transfer to a food processor and pulse to a coarse puree.  Scrape the puree into a medium mixing bowl, add leeks, and add goat cheese.  Mix well.  Taste and add more salt and pepper if necessary.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.   Melt the stick of butter in the microwave or in a small pan over very low heat.  Don't let the butter get hot.  Prepare a couple of baking sheets or cookie sheets by wrapping them with aluminum foil for easy cleanup later.

Lay one sheet of the phyllo on a clean work surface.  (I use my kitchen counter.  I clean it well with antibacterial wipes, then clean away any soap residue with a damp paper towel, then dry with a dry paper towel.)  Keep the rest of the phyllo covered with damp paper towels.  Using a silicone brush or a pastry brush, brush the phyllo sheet with melted butter.  Cut it lengthwise into 3 long, even strips.  Place 1 level tablespoon of the filling in a corner of one of the strips, about 1/2 inch from the top.  Fold the corner down to form a triangle.  Continue folding the triangle onto itself, across and down, until you have a neat phyllo triangle.

Two tips:  Using a "cookie scoop" makes measuring a tablespoon of filling easier.  If you've ever folded an American flag Boy Scout style, that's the technique you want to use to fold the phyllo into triangles.  It's also the same technique you used in junior high when you made little paper triangle footballs that you thumped over the student in front of you in class to "score" a touchdown.

Place the triangles on the baking sheet or cookie sheet.  Brush the top of the triangles with some of the melted butter and bake for about 20 minutes, or until browned and crisp.  Remove from oven and let cool slightly before serving.

This recipe is pretty simple, but produces an elegant little pastry.  I hope you'll give it a try.


  1. I really like this recipe and want to try it. Can these be made ahead, frozen, and then baked when needed? I'm thinking ahead for Christmas and want to make an assortment. Thanks for your time! Susanne

  2. Susanne, I haven't tried freezing and then cooking these, but I think it would work well. I've had really good luck freezing egg rolls and pot stickers and cooking them later.

    Be sure to remove the moisture from the leeks and mushrooms really well. Prepare the recipe through the "triangle" stage. Spray a light mist of oil on foil-lined baking sheets and place the triangles on the baking sheets in a single layer, not quite touching each other. Don't butter the tops of the triangles. Put the baking sheets in the freezer and let the triangles freeze completely.

    Once frozen, carefully place the triangles in a ziplock bag, label, and place the bag of triangles in the freezer. When ready to prepare, remove from freezer, thaw for about half an hour, then brush with butter and bake normally.