Cook’s Corner

Going Greek: Leg of lamb in paper, brie in phyllo


Sleuth’s Corner

Q. I lost a recipe for a chocolate cookie made with a devil’s food cake mix from a magazine feature on “light” recipes. Into the center of each ball of dough you seal a Junior Mint candy. They were absolutely delicious.

Ann Justice , Elyria, Ohio

Main Dish

Greek Leg of Lamb in Paper

4 pound leg of lamb

10 to 12 cloves of garlic, peeled

6 ounces cheese (kefalotyri, pecorino) cut in cubes

1 tablespoon of olive oil

4 pounds of roasting or baking potatoes, peeled, cut in half or quarters

3 medium carrots, cut in chunks

Sea salt and freshly ground pepper

4 or 5 sheets of parchment cooking paper

More information

Heat the oven to 480 degrees. Rub the lamb with a little olive oil, and sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste. With a sharp knife, pierce the lamb and insert a clove of garlic and a piece of cheese into each opening. Drizzle the potatoes and carrots with any remaining oil and season to taste with salt and pepper.

On a clean work surface, spread out the parchment sheets and lay the lamb in the center, with the potatoes and carrots. If there is any remaining cheese and/or garlic cloves, add as well. Close the parchment paper and secure well, tucking the sides underneath to make a packet.

Fill a roasting pan 1/3 full of water, add the packet and cook for 2 hours 30 minutes, adding more water to the pan as needed to keep from getting dry.

When done, lift the entire packet onto a serving platter, and cut open at the table to serve. Makes 6 servings.

Per serving: 760 calories (43percent from fat), 36.5 g fat (17.7 g saturated, 14.6 g monounsaturated), 137 mg cholesterol, 48.6 g protein, 59.3g carbohydrates, 5.5 g fiber, 597 mg sodium.

More information

In a medium sauté pan, heat canola oil. Add red onion and sauté until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add garlic, cinnamon stick, star anise and bay leaf and sauté for 2 minutes. Add red bell pepper and sauté for 2 minutes. Add vinegars and reduce liquid by half. Add sugar and simmer about 20 minutes or until a rubber spatula separates the compote cleanly in the middle. Cool. Makes 1 1/4 cups, 9 servings.


Red Pepper Compote

2 tablespoons canola oil

1/2 cup red onion (1/4-inch dice)

1 teaspoon garlic, minced

1/2 cinnamon stick

1 star anise, optional

1 bay leaf

1 cup red bell pepper, (1/4-inch dice)

1/4 cup apple cider vinegar

1/4 cup red wine vinegar

1/2 cup sugar


Phyllo-Wrapped Baked Brie

8 sheets phyllo dough, (9-by-14 inches)

4 1/4-inch Brie wheel

Vegetable oil spray

1 egg beaten with 1 tablespoon water

Thaw 1 roll of phyllo, following instructions on package. Place one sheet on counter, keeping the remaining sheets covered with a damp towel or plastic wrap. Lightly coat the entire sheet with cooking spray. Repeat with 3 more sheets of phyllo, but do not spray the top layer. Repeat with the remaining 4 sheets to make a second set.

Heat oven to 400 degrees.

Place Brie wheel in the middle of 1 set of layered phyllo. Place second layered set over the brie in the same direction as the bottom set. Mold the top set around the Brie. Cut the phyllo leaving a 1 1/2-inch border around cheese (a pizza cutter works well).

Starting with the closest edge, begin to tightly roll the phyllo up to the cheese. Continue rolling until you have reached the starting point, creating a ring around the brie. Trim any excess phyllo. Lightly brush all the surface with egg wash.

Re-roll unused sheets and wrap in plastic for later use. On a baking tray, bake Brie wheel for 10 to 12 minutes or until the phyllo is golden brown. Let stand for 15-20 minutes before cutting. Top with Red Pepper Compote (see recipe), or your favorite preserve. Makes 9 servings.

Per serving:

236 calories (48 percent from fat), 12.6 g fat (5.6 g saturated, 5.0 g monounsaturated), 49 mg cholesterol, 8.0 g protein, 22 g carbohydrates, .7 g fiber, 270 mg sodium


French Buttercream Cookies

1 cup (2 sticks) butter (not margarine), softened

1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar

1/2 cup sugar

1 egg

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

2 1/4 cups flour

1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

Decorating sugar

Heat oven to 375 degrees. Combine butter and both sugars in large bowl. Beat at medium speed, scraping bowl often, until creamy. Add egg and vanilla, and beat until well mixed. Reduce speed to low and add flour, cream of tartar and baking soda. Beat until dough forms a ball. Chill 1 hour.

Shape dough into 1-inch balls. Place 2 inches apart on ungreased cookie sheet. Using bottom of glass, flatten to a circle about 1 1/2 inches across. You can dip the bottom of the glass or the tines of a fork in sugar and press onto the cookie or shake on the sugar.

Bake 7 to 9 minutes, until edges are lightly browned. Let cool on cookie sheet 1 minute before removing to cooling rack. Makes 6 dozen.

Per cookie: 46 calories (52 percent from fat), 2.7 g fat (1.6 g saturated, 0.7 g monounsaturated), 9.3 mg cholesterol, 0.5g protein, 5.1 g carbohydrates, 0.1 g fiber, 32 mg sodium.

R. T.’s mother used to make a leg of lamb baked in a paper bag for Christmas Eve. He believed she brought the recipe with her to the United States from her native Greece.

Several readers were familiar with the dish he described. “My family has made this for every holiday for as long as I can remember,” said G. Papadoulus. “You just put the lamb, rubbed well with olive oil and lemon juice and sprigs of fresh oregano in the bag and cook it till it is done as much as you want. There’s no real recipe we follow.”

Pamela Suarez sent a recipe from a Greek cooking website that actually has measurements and timing, but I was dubious since it calls for no treatment of the bag or for putting water in the pan you set the roast in.

Sara L. suggested the recipe here, from the website In the Greek food section Nancy Gaifyllia uses parchment paper rather than paper bags, and this made sense to me. Parchment paper is sanitary and burn-resistant.

I was also fascinated by an accompanying explanation for why paper is used: “Arnakis Kleftiko (pronounced ahr-NAH-kee KLEF-tee-koh) is an adaptation of a dish fixed in the mountains by guerrillas (bandits) who needed to cook without being seen. They placed the meat on coals in a hole, covered it up, and let it cook for up to 24 hours. No trace of any stolen animal, and no smell of cooking meat to give them away.”

Grace Arapakis adds the juice and grated zest of a lemon to basically the same recipe, and I found that a great addition. Arapakis also says you can use lamb shanks and make individual packets using the same method and seasoning ingredients.

Q. Back in the late 1970s, right after I was married, I learned how to make baked Brie in pastry. It was exotic for the times and looked a lot harder to make than it was. I stopped making it when kids came along and our parties were of the cupcake and lemonade variety. My husband mentioned the Brie lately and I can’t find the recipe I used. Although there were many available they were all very complicated. Can you help?

Lizzie S.

I’ve always used the recipe from the box of frozen phyllo dough, and I’ll bet it is the one you’re remembering. It seems to me in the 1970s the recipe called for a jar of hot pepper jelly warmed and placed on the side, while today’s version from has a festive compote made with red bell peppers that is perfect for New Year’s parties and bowl games.

Q. There was a recipe for French sugar cookies in The Herald a while back that I have lost. The dough was rolled into 1-inch balls and then flattened. I would love to have the recipe.


This recipe has forced my old sugar cookie recipe to the side. As the readers who sent it in said, it tastes “kind of like shortbread, but is crisper” and “kind of like a sugar cookie but more buttery.” When I made them this year, I came up with a shortcut by rolling the dough into a 2-inch tube and then simply slicing and baking. Because the ingredients are so simple it is absolutely essential that you don’t shortchange on the ingredients: Use real butter and a good quality real vanilla extract.

Send questions and responses to or Food, 1 Herald Plaza, Miami, FL 33132. Personal replies are not possible.

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