Serious Heat: What the Heck Is a Trigona?

Serious Heat

Andrea Lynn, senior editor of Chile Pepper magazine, shares thoughts and observations from the fiery food world.


[Flickr: ArkanGL]

Earlier this month, I participated in the Chocolate and and Chile Takedown, a cooking competition where peopled tried to make a dish combining chocolate and chile in the most delicious way possible. I chose the sweet route (an icebox cake) but the uncontested winner was 31-year-old Greg Erskine's Trigonas stuffed with Beef Confit and Mole Sauce.

And what the heck is a trigona? I certainly didn't know before meeting Greg. It's sweet or savory goodness wrapped in phyllo dough, fashioned into a triangle shape. Greg channeled his Greek roots for this recipe, especially since the baked phyllo shell would stay crispy for hours, an absolute must when in a competition cookoff.

"This is a wonderful thing about trigona—it can be made well in advance, then baked on the morning you need it," Greg said. "I like to have emergency trigona on hand in the freezer in case I need to bring something to a party all last-minute-like."

But if you don't want to go the trigona route for the beef confit and mole mixture, Greg says to roll it in egg roll wrappers and deep-fry, make into samosas, or as a pan-style pita, like spanakopita. You get the picture; the options are quite endless.

Greg, who has participated in a few past cookoffs, says that food and family gatherings have always gone hand-in-hand in his life. "Also, when I first started living by myself, I spent a lot of time experimenting with extremely-cheap reasonably-life-sustaining recipes, so I got really into making big batches of stews and curries, basically anything that you can make a giant batch of at one time." He built this recipe around the thought process that the rich dark velvety flavor and texture of tender shredded beef would go well with chocolate and chili. Encased in a crispy outer shell? Even better.

Yes, the recipe is time-consuming, I'm not going to lie. But Greg's trigonas were so delicious, it's worth it for a special-occasion party treat. You'll be the hit of the crowd. Not only did the crowd at the cookoff vote Greg the winner, but the other contestants were also raving and trying to swipe bites too.