Phyllo dough scares me. I've used it once or twice, with great results, but it doesn't matter, my mind still thinks what it wants. And, truth be told - once you have all of your ingredients ready to go, the use of phyllo is actually painless and easy.
Some time ago, I found a recipe for fennel and chorizo strudel in the Culinary Institute of America's Gourmet Meals in Minutes cookbook that I glanced at, saw phyllo, made a mental note and filed it away in the depths of my mind for months. (The picture is actually featured right on the cover!) This week I finally pulled out the phyllo sheets to defrost so I could make a variation of this recipe that intrigued me so - replacing the chorizo, which I do not like, with good old Italian Sausage.
FENNEL AND SAUSAGE STRUDEL (makes two six inch strudels - enough to feed 4 people)
8 sheets of prepared and thawed phyllo dough
1 stick of butter, divided
1 fennel bulb, finely chopped
1 small onion, finely chopped
6 oz. ground sweet Italian sausage
2 tbsp fresh tarragon
1 tbsp fresh chives
1 1/4 cup Italian bread crumbs, divided
pepper, to taste
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
In a large skillet, melt 2 tbsp butter. Saute sausage and onion until sausage is fully cooked. Add fennel and continue to cook until fennel is tender. Set aside and let cool until mixture is room temperature. Finely chop herbs. Add herbs, bread crumbs and egg to cooled mixture and stir to thoroughly combine. Season with pepper. (No need to add salt - the sausage is salty enough!)
The chives add such a nice flavor to the overall mixture. Save a little for some garnish at the end.
Prepare your workplace for the phyllo. Melt remaining butter, and dampen a clean kitchen towel. (Use the kitchen towel to cover the phyllo you are not using so that the dough does not dry out and become brittle while you are working.) Place one sheet of phyllo on a piece of parchment paper. Brush melted butter on phyllo, working away from you. Sprinkle a thin layer of bread crumbs on buttered phyllo, and repeat with remaining dough until you have 4 complete layers.
Spread 1/2 of sausage mixture on one end of the phyllo, and carefull roll up, tucking the ends under slightly and placing the strudel seam side down on a parchment lined baking sheet. Repeat all steps to create another strudel roll.
Brush strudels with remaining butter and dust another layer of bread crumbs on top to assist with browning and flavor. With a very sharp knife, score the top of the strudel rolls to make cutting the final product easier. Bake for 15 minutes or until lightly browned and flaky.
Although I served this for dinner, it would make an absolutely awesome appetizer if made into a thinner roll and cut into bite sized pieces. I loved the way the phyllo crisped up and became this buttery, flaky covering for the flavorful sausage interior. Be warned though - it is incredibly rich.
These strudels would also be incredible (and a little healthier) with ground chicken, or even a spinach mixture for all the vegetarians out there! I may even try the technique stuffed with spinach and artichoke dip for Easter, so that no one has to mess with broken tortilla chips!