childhood favorites: fakey chicken pillows

beyond meat vegan phyllo pillows

Let’s get this out of the way right away: My feelings about Beyond Meat are complicated. CONS: It’s creepily meatlike, it contains soy protein isolates (more on that here, although note that Beyond Meat specifies its soy is non-GMO), and it’s a processed convenience food that comes in WAY too much packaging. PROS: It’s super quick and easy, it packs some protein, and it has a mild flavor that makes it quite versatile and an easy sell to omnis.

Over the holidays, there was a coupon floating ’round the Internet for a free package. So I printed it 4-up and went on a Beyond Meat tour of Portland, stocking my freezer with free food. Because I’m broke and I love grocery stores. I used it in tacos, pastas, stir-fry, and peanut noodles. And I managed to recreate an old favorite from my omni days, which is always a beautiful thing.

Back in high school, my friend’s mom served “chicken pillows” at a party and it was love at first bite. I was already red-meat-free and was struggling getting chicken down my gullet (remember, it was the ’80s in Chicago, so true vegetarianism was just crazy talk). But these were little bits of chicken and loads of garlic wrapped in phyllo for a crispy, sort of fancy little snack.

I’ve since attempted this with tofu, marinated tempeh, soy curls, seitan, a couple of other chicken substitutes—nothing was right. There was too much liquid or the flavor or texture was off. So damn frustrating. But this is it, we have a winner, and it’s space-age fakey chicken strips.

The marinade/filling is simple. Just make your favorite garlic-heavy pesto, but keep it pretty dry. Mine went something like this:

  • 1 bunch parsley (leaves only, completely dried off—the stems contain a lot of water)
  • 5-6 cloves garlic, raw
  • 1 Tbs olive oil
  • 1 tsp lemon juice
  • nooch, salt & black pepper to taste

I just whizzed this up with my stick blender and added it to chopped-up Beyond Meat (I used the Lightly Seasoned flavor, but whatever you got is OK, I’m sure). After letting it sit for a bit, I laid a bit of the filling into phyllo, rolling it up like little burritos or spring rolls. If you’ve never worked with phyllo before, don’t fret, sweet thing. Check out YouTube for a gazillion demystifying videos.

My technique for these:

  • Spray one phyllo sheet with olive oil (or brush with olive oil or melted Earth Balance…heated long enough to boil off a bunch of the water).
  • Fold in half, the squat way—you don’t want a long, skinny piece—and spray again. Cut a line down the center, to make two pillows from each sheet.
  • Place filling along an edge, leaving space on the sides to fold over and roll carefully, folding sides over at the end.
  • Spray with yet more oil! Place on a cookie sheet and bake at 425° for 10 minutes or until yummy-brown.

Oh, and bonus! Leftovers, while super soggy and sad when pulled out of the fridge, crisp up nicely in a toaster oven. Childhood favorites for the win!

Extra bonus! Don’t know what to do with the extra phyllo sheets? Roll ’em up with some sweetened-up apples or chocolate chips or leftover mashed potatoes. Aside from water content, this stuff is pretty forgiving.

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