Cooking with Yiayia : Kotopita

Greek pitas, or pies, come in various shapes and tastes. From a quick snack that fits in your hands, to an oven dish that feeds the whole family. As a sweet dessert or a savory lunch. The most famous Greek pitas are Spanakopita, spinach pie, and Tiropita, cheese pie. But the tastiest is Kotopita.

What is Kotopita?

Kota in Greek means chicken. Kotopita is nothing more than a Greek pie, stuffed with chicken. The pie is made with a phyllo dough that gives this pita a crunchy outside. While the chicken filling is creamy, due to the milk, cheese, and eggs that are added. Onions, olive oil, cumin, pepper, and salt give this pie the perfect taste.

Why is Kotopita not well-known?

Entering a traditional Greek bakery in search of a savory snack, you will always find Tiropita and Spanakopita. But where is the chicken pie?

The process of making Kotopita is more complicated and time-consuming compared to the famous pitas. Besides, the ingredients are more expensive and more difficult to store. But what I learned from Yiayia, is to never be afraid of spending time on good food. The result is worth it.

Yiayia’s secrets

  • The first secret to grandma’s Kotopita is, of course, her homemade traditional phyllo dough, Check out her recipe and prepare the dough before starting the Kotopita
  • Yiayia’s Kotopita is simple. The main ingredient is chicken, and everything else is there to add flavor and texture to it. Many other recipes add bechamel and vegetables to create a more complex taste. But for a good chicken pie, all you need is a good chicken.
  • Although Yiayia uses more butter and oil in her phyllo dough, she does the opposite in the kotopita’s filling. The chicken in this pita is dry but tasteful. Perfect with her crispy and buttery phyllo.

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Ingredients

For a large pie of 40 centimeters in diameter.
If you own a smaller oven dish, I would recommend still using a whole chicken because the bones really add to the taste of the pie. If you have too much, you can store part of the chicken meat in the freezer. Continue the recipe with the amount of chicken you need for one pie.

  • Phyllo dough
  • Chicken filling
    Olive oil
    1 whole chicken, about 1.5 kg (3.3 pounds)
    3 big red onions
    300 grams of salted hard cheese
    1 glass of milk
    1 tablespoon of pepper
    1 teaspoon of cumin
    Salt for taste (around 1 – 2 tablespoons, depending on the cheese and your preference)
    3 eggs
    Sunflower oil (to sprinkle on top of the pie)

Tools

  • pan
  • oven dish
  • bowl
  • baking paper

Preparation

Before you can start with the Kotopita, you have to prepare your phyllo and the chicken. You can do this the night before, or just before preparing the pita. Just know that both these things are time-consuming and with long hours of waiting in between.

You will have to put the whole chicken in a large pan and cover it with water. Add about a tablespoon of salt and put to a boil. The chicken needs to boil for 30 to 40 minutes (60 if it is frozen). When the chicken is ready, take it out of the water and let it cool down. Don’t throw away the chicken broth, you can use this to make a tasty homemade chicken soup.

When the chicken has cooled down, you will first have to remove the skin. Then it is time to take it apart and collect the meat in small pieces. Cut bigger parts with scissors or a knife. You don’t want big pieces in your chicken pie.

Yiayia’s Kotopita

Time needed: 1 hour and 45 minutes.

45 minutes cooking time and 1 hour in the oven

  1. Fry the onions

    Cut the red onions into big pieces. Add a generous amount of olive oil to a heated pan on a high fire. Cook the onions till they are soft.

  2. Add the chicken

    When the onions are soft, it is time to add the chicken. Stir regularly but don’t be afraid to overcook it. The pieces should get brown. In the meantime, you can grind the cheese for the next step.

  3. Add cheese and milk

    When the chicken is brown, it is time to add the cheese and a glass of milk. Add slowly and keep stirring regularly. Leave to cook until the chicken mixture is dry.

  4. Add the spices

    Start with a rich amount of pepper and cumin. Mix everything together and taste the filling. You’re looking for a taste that seems slightly too salty. Add salt till you feel like you have reached this. Don’t be afraid of making it too salty, the taste of salt will disappear in the complete pie. If you don’t taste the salt, you have to add a bit more

  5. Let it cool down

    When the mixture has the proper taste, it is time to turn off the stove and let the mixture cool down for 10 to 15 minutes. The reason for this is that you are about to add eggs, and you don’t want them to solidify immediately. The eggs should remain uncooked until you put the pie in the oven.
    Use the waiting time to put the bottom layer of phyllo dough in your oven dish. Use baking paper to prevent it from sticking to the bottom.

  6. Finish the chicken filling

    Break the eggs in a bowl and hit them with a fork. Mix them into the cooled-down chicken filling. Add the chicken filling on top of the bottom layer of phyllo. Add the top layer of dough and tuck it in on the bottom.

  7. Finish the pita

    Carefully slice the top layer of the pie into smaller pieces. You want some part of the dough to be open, so the oven can cook the individual layers, while at the same time you do not want a pie that falls apart. This requires some practice.

  8. Cook in the oven and enjoy!

    Sprinkle sunflower oil over the pita and place it in the oven. The pie should be cooked at 180 degrees (350 F) for an hour. Keep checking in between if the phyllo does not get too dark or stays too light and adjust the temperature according to what you see.pie of traditional greek phyllo dough before it enters the oven

Tips:

  • When working with baking paper to prevent a pie from sticking to your oven dish, Yiayia has a tip. If you wrinkle the paper before use, it is much easier to shape into your dish. Before use, make a ball of the paper in your hand and squeeze. When you open it, it is much more user friendly!
  • You might feel like it is much easier to use chicken breasts for this recipe. Although this will save you time and dirty hands, it also reduces the taste of the pie. If you really don’t use a whole chicken, it is better to choose legs instead of breasts. But best is to follow the recipe.
  • I usually use the ingredients for the 40 cm pies, but make two smaller ones out of them. When making the phyllo, I create 4 packages, of which I store two in the freezer, and use two immediately for the pie. I boil the chicken and use half of the meat to make the filling and again store the other half in the freezer. This way, I save a lot of time making the second pie.

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