Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Recipe: Chicken in Rosemary Bread (Κοτόπιτα)

Twenty-five years ago, we lived in Bethel, Alaska. I was there five years. At the time, Bethel had about 4500 full-year residents, most of whom were Yup’ik Eskimos.

Located on the banks of the meandering Kuskokwim River, Bethel is 60 miles east of Alaska’s Bering Sea coast. Cold Siberian winds blowing across the treeless tundra made Bethel a chilly winter home.

During Bethel’s frosty winters, I made Chicken Bread (as this recipe is known in our family) quite frequently. Fragrant rosemary bread, stuffed with chicken and herbs, is an ideal meal to fight off winter chills. It is one of my husband’s favorite meals.

We hadn’t had Chicken Bread in years when I recently prepared it as a Christmas treat. In the past, I made it as a single glorious loaf. When company was over, I’d deliver what appeared to be a large round rosemary bread to the table. The flavorful filling was revealed only when I cut the bread into wedges for serving.

My husband often suggested I make individual loaves of Chicken Bread. Since this was for a Christmas treat, I took his suggestion and was glad I did. Single serving Chicken Breads are less messy and make better leftovers.

With single servings, every diner gets to cut open their own bread, exposing the filling and its heady aromas of herbs and chicken.

Chicken in Rosemary Bread (Κοτόπιτα)
Serves 6 - 8
If the filling isn’t cool when you stuff the breads, it may break through the dough when you try and seal it. Conscientious bakers should make the filling first and then the dough, so the filling has time to fully cool. If you are impatient (like me), and must stuff the dough when the filling is warm, bake the breads in individual gratin dishes instead of directly on the baking sheet. The gratin dishes support the dough and prevent break-throughs.
Note: Rosemary Bread is excellent served on its own, without the filling. For directions on making loaves of Rosemary Bread, go

2 cups warm water
1 Tbsp. honey
2 1/4 tsp. dry yeast (1 packet)
2 Tbsp. minced rosemary
2 tsp. salt
2 Tbsp. olive oil
2 cups semolina flour
2 – 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1 pound skinless, boneless chicken thighs (4 chicken thighs)
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 cup diced carrots, 1/4” dice
1 cup diced celery, 1/4” dice
2 1/2 cups diced leeks or 2 cups diced onion, 1/4” dice
Freshly ground black pepper
1 cup white wine
1/4 pound thinly sliced prosciutto, cut into 1/2” pieces
1/4 cup minced garlic
1/4 cup minced thyme

Make the bread dough:
In a large bowl, mix the warm water and honey. Sprinkle the yeast over the water and let it sit for 10 minutes, or until the yeast begins to foam. Using a stand mixer with the paddle attachment (or by hand with a wooden spoon), mix in the rosemary, salt, olive oil, and semolina flour. Let sit for 10 minutes (this is necessary to properly hydrate the semolina).

Start mixing in the all-purpose flour. When the dough starts clumping together, switch to the dough hook (or to kneading by hand), and keep adding all-purpose flour until you have a moist, but not quite sticky, dough. Flour a board or counter, dump out the dough, and knead in flour as needed to make a smooth, soft dough. Let the dough rise for 1 hour, or until the dough has doubled in size. Punch down the dough.

Make the filling:
Wash the boned, skinned chicken thighs and dry them well. Cut into 1” pieces.

Sauté the carrots, celery, and leeks (or onions), lightly seasoned with salt and freshly ground black pepper, in olive oil for 3 minutes. Add the wine and bring to a boil. Stir in the prosciutto and garlic, reduce the heat, and simmer for 15 minutes, until the chicken is cooked through and most of the wine has evaporated. Stir in the thyme. Let cool completely.

Shape the chicken bread:
Preheat oven to 400°F.

For individual loaves, divide the dough into six pieces. Roll out each portion into a 9 – 10” circle. Place one-sixth of the filling in the center of each circle and draw up the sides, sealing the edges together. The sealed edges form a seam that runs lengthwise on top of the chicken bread from one edge to the other. Place the chicken bread on a parchment-paper lined baking sheet (or in individual gratin dishes). Repeat until all the chicken breads are made.

For one large loaf, roll the dough into a large circle, put the filling in the middle, and gently pull up the sides over the filling. Pleat the edges of dough together to form a topknot in the center of the loaf.

Bake for 30 minutes. Turn the oven down to 325°F and bake for 10 – 15 minutes for individual chicken breads and 15 – 20 minutes for one large chicken bread. Cool 5 minutes before serving.

Leftovers: Because the breads contain chicken, leftovers must be stored in the refrigerator. However, bread tends to harden up in the refrigerator, so leftover chicken bread is best eaten warmed up to soften the bread. The easiest way to do this is to put individual chicken breads on a paper-towel covered plate. Microwave on medium for 90 – 120 seconds, or until the bread is the temperature you desire.
This is my entry for Bread Baking Day #5, hosted this month by Rolling in Dough.


Peter M said...

A very nice creation, Laurie. I see you're on a rosemary kick of late, a hearty herb.

Valerie Harrison (bellini) said...

Sounds like a very comforting creation for cold winter nights...of which we have many!! I'll look forward to many more delicious posts coming from your kitchen in Alaska in 2008!!

Katie Zeller said...

Once again all of my favorite tastes. I bet that would be good smeared with a bit of chevre...

Thistlemoon said...

Wow Laurie! That sounds wonderful! I have never heard of such a thing. It is a great dish for a party when you have unsuspecting guests!

Happy New Year!

winedeb said...

Hi Laurie! I am visiting you from "Seasoned Eatings". It was a fun event and even more fun discovering more bloggers who enjoy the same interests!
I have just started baking bread, as I am really a non-baker, but did enjoy my first success. So seeing your Chicken in Bread has tempted me to hit the yeast and flour again. I grow rosemary here and adore it in many dishes and oils.
Happy New Year to you and I will stop back to visit you in your kitchen up north from mine down south!

desie said...

Looks fab. i usually make stuffed bread for picnics but this one looks absolutely beautiful. the presentation is great and the recipe sounds delish.

test it comm said...

Baking a chicken dinner inside of bread sounds really interesting!

Chris said...

WOW....this brings bread to a whole new level! :) Looks delish!

Maria Verivaki said...

This looks delicious; I'd serve it with that sqaush soup you describe. Perfect for winter!

Laurie Constantino said...

Peter, you're right, I have been on a rosemary kick. It's such a good herb to use in the winter.

Valli, and here I thought you lived in BCs banana belt! I'll try my best to live up to your high expectations...

Mmmm-mmmmm Katie, good idea!

Jenn, exactly! I love surprising people (but only in a good way).

Winedeb, thanks for stopping by! It's great you're starting to bake bread; it's a very satisfying activity!

Maybahay, picnics - you are so right, this would be great picnic fare -- all the food contained in one neat package.

Kevin, interesting AND delicious.

Chris, I love any kind of filled bread. I can't wait for the Bread Baking #5 round-up.

Maria, you're right about the squash soup -- soup and sandwich, who could resist it!

Cris said...

Love the way you shaped this bread! I have a pan that has a similar shape, oh my, so glad I came here today. :-)

Laurie Constantino said...

I'm also glad you stopped by Cris. Everytime I see your name I think about Brazil and warm weather and it makes my day a little brighter.

Anonymous said...

That is awesome-looking!

zorra said...

Even it's not so cold in Spain, I will try your recipe soon!

Unknown said...

rosemary and chicken are two great combinations! i'm sure they're lovely in bread!

Marta said...

It's a very original bread!! I'll try it soon!!



Laurie Constantino said...

Thank you Ann!

Zorra, I think you'll like it even if it's not cold! When I can get it, I make this with serrano ham, which adds wonderful flavor.

Arfi, they really are a good combination. Thanks for visiting!

Thanks, Marta. I'd love to hear how it turns out for you!

Suzana said...

Really, really nice bread! I couldn't stop thinking of alternative fillings such as salmon and capers... oh sorry, I got all excited. I HAVE to try your rosemary bread.