This Phyllo Torte with Chicken (or Ham), Ricotta and Swiss Chard has a crispy, flaky, buttery crust filled with all our favorite Spring flavors. It looks like a showstopper, but it’s easy as pie.
We’ve been having topsy-turvy weather here in the Hudson Valley over the last couple of months. We had an late Winter blizzard that dropped almost 3 feet (!) of snow on us, followed by a week in the 70s, followed by a month of cold dreariness, and then yesterday it got up to 89ºF. Even our poor little chickens are like “WTF, people?” (You haven’t seen side-eye until you’ve seen chicken side-eye. They are not shy about squawking their displeasure right into your face).
But thankfully things have settled down, our girls are laying again and we’re covering our new deck in a million herb and flower pots. Nothing makes me happier than Spring plantings coming up, and I have very high hopes for our garden this year.
So with all this Spring in the air, I figured it was time to try out the Spring-centric Melissa Clark recipe I’ve been thinking about since I saw it in the New York Times last year.
I have to tell you, this thing is genius.
If you’ve ever made Spanakopita or Baklava, you know how challenging working with phyllo dough can be. It’s not hard, it’s just a lot of work to brush butter over each paper thin layer of dough before adding the next one. Then repeat, repeat, repeat.
The genius of this Phyllo Torte is that the butter is added almost entirely at the end -though one of the adaptations I made to the original recipe is to drizzle a little butter over the dough every so often as you layer it in the pan (but you can be as haphazard and imprecise as you like in this process). This ensures that the bottom layers get their share of butter so they turn evenly crisp, brown and shiny.
For the filling, I wanted to make it substantial enough to be a main dish but light enough for a warm afternoon brunch. It’s kind of a mix of a Greek Spinach and Feta Pie and a savory cheesecake.
I originally wanted to use ramps (the light of my life) in this but, alas, they’re not quite available yet. Nor was my other Spring favorite, green garlic. (If you can get your paws on either of these, by all means use them). Or go with the shallots, garlic and scallions we use in the recipe. The combination is delicious and, along with fresh dill, gives the filling so much flavor. The shallots and garlic and Swiss chard get lightly sautéed, to soften them and release their flavors before they get added to the cheeses.
Along with the ricotta, we added feta cheese for that salty bite, and cubed mozzarella, which melts beautifully. We also added a bit of shredded chicken (this is great place to use leftover Easter ham or a rotisserie bird) and cubed ham would be a great option. Note that you can absolutely leave the meat out without much loss of flavor, for a vegetarian version.
One note about the phyllo dough: when I watched Melissa Clark’s video, I realized the dough she was using was twice as large as the dough I purchased. One sheet of hers fit over the entire Bundt pan, whereas ours only covered half. No size was listed in her original recipe, nor was it printed on the box I bought, so I only discovered the difference once I was already in the middle of cooking.
I’ve since discovered that phyllo comes in either 14 x 9 inch or 14 x 18 inch sheets. So what we did with the smaller size was lay the sheets offset from the center, to allow the couple of inches of overhang needed to cover the pan once it’s all filled. We stacked the phyllo two sheets at a time, going off center and working our way around, so there is an even layer of dough all around the pan (watch Melissa’s video if you want to see the process).
We also liberally buttered the pan itself (a little butter can pool on the bottom, that’s fine) and every couple of layers, we drizzled a tablespoon or so of butter on the dough. No need to brush it on or be precise. Most of the butter will go on top, so make sure you poke holes with a sharp knife, all the way through to the bottom. You don’t need to be too scientific about it, provided that your dough layers end up reasonably even.
We sliced this and had it straight away for dinner with a side salad, but you can let it fully cool (it should be refrigerated if kept overnight). Matt liked it cold as a lunch but I liked it better reheated, so the phyllo re-crisps. To reheat a slice, put in a 325ºF oven for about 10-15 minutes until warmed through.
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 3 medium shallots, diced small (200g)
- 3 large cloves garlic, minced (about 1½ tablespoons)
- ¾ lb. (400g) Swiss chard (about 1 medium bunch), tough stems removed, leaves chopped
- 1 pound (2¾ cups) fresh, whole-milk ricotta
- 1½ cups (150g) crumbled feta (preferably French or Greek)
- 1½ cups (200g) cooked shredded chicken (or diced ham), optional
- 1 cup (100g) cubed mozzarella
- 3 large eggs
- 3 scallions, finely sliced
- ¼ cup (20g) chopped fresh dill (not packed)
- 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1½ sticks (3/4 cup, 170g) unsalted butter, melted
- 1 pound box phyllo dough, thawed overnight in refrigerator * see note above about sizes
- Heat oven to 375ºF. Add oil to a large skillet set on medium heat. When oil is shimmering, add the shallots, garlic and a pinch of kosher salt. Cook until just wilted, 2 to 3 minutes. Add chard and cook until wilted, 4 to 5 minutes. Turn off heat and set aside to cool.
- In a large bowl, combine ricotta, feta, shredded chicken, mozzarella, eggs, scallions, dill and pepper. Stir in the cooled chard mixture.
- Brush a 12-cup Bundt pan very liberally with some of the melted butter. Drape 2 sheets of phyllo on top of Bundt pan, poke through the dough to fit it over the center tube, and push phyllo into the bottom of the pan to line it. Drizzle about 1 tablespoon of butter over the phyllo. Do this with another 2 sheets placed perpendicular to the first one. Drizzle a little more butter after every few layers. Continue adding phyllo sheets in this crisscross manner, leaving any leftover butter for the top, until all sheets are used. Edges of phyllo should hang over edges of pan.
- Add ricotta filling into pan. Fold edges of phyllo over filling. Using a long, sharp knife, poke about 2 dozen holes in dough that reach all the way to bottom of pan. Slowly pour the remaining melted butter all over torte; some butter will seep through holes and some will remain on top of dough.
- Place pan on a baking sheet and bake for 60-70 minutes, until torte is puffy and golden brown. Allow torte to cool in bundt pan for 1 to 2 hours before inverting onto a platter and slicing. Serve warm or room temperature.