Pretty Packages

After making that b’stilla, I still had at least half a package of phyllo dough in the refrigerator to use up. Although I understand it can be refrozen without too much detriment, this particular package had already been waiting for nearly a year to get some action, so I wanted to use it up instead. Of course, my immediate instinct was baklava, but we are out of honey, leading my thoughts in a much more savory direction. Salmon and phyllo sounded like a great pairing for me, and just to put it over the top, I bundled it all up with a simple mixture of hearty greens and goat cheese. You should have seen the way Jeremy’s eyes lit up when I described the dish—the man is a bona fide florentine fan.

When the word florentine isn’t referring to a lacy cookie like the ones I made for Daring Bakers last month, it generally means a dish of either eggs, meat or fish combined with spinach and a creamy Mornay sauce. But I didn’t have any spinach on hand, so instead I used a package of frozen greens that I socked away at the end of the growing season last year. I think this particular bag was a mixture of kale, turnip greens and radish greens, already washed, chopped, blanched and drained. I just thawed them in the microwave and dumped them into my food processor with about 3 ounces of plain chevre, a few teaspoons of juice from my preserved lemons, and a splash of olive oil to get everything moving. After layering up six sheets of phyllo with butter, I rolled up the besmeared salmon fillets into something closely resembling little burritos and tucked them into a hot oven. Then, having focused all of my meal planning on the entrée, I proceeded to run around the kitchen like a chicken with its head cut off, trying to figure out appropriate side dishes that I could have ready in 20 minutes. We ended up with white rice and carrots glazed with butter, white wine, cider vinegar, a pinch of sugar and some thyme.

While I was busy fretting about the phyllo burning before the salmon had a chance to cook and the greens being more tough or bitter than I remembered, the little bundles cooked through perfectly. This is a seriously impressive-looking dish once you cut into it; it tastes even better, and it wasn’t hard to make at all. Add that to the fact that you can prepare the bundles in advance, and this would be an ideal dinner party dish. The phyllo was shatteringly crisp, the salmon was moist, and the goat cheese-infused greens added just enough richness to really elevate everything. Not too shabby for 45 minutes of work!

Phyllo-Wrapped Salmon Florentine

Whenever we get a big slab of salmon now, I portion it into neat little rectangles, trimming off the thinner belly section so that the fish will cook evenly. All those scraps should be saved though—they can be used to make chowder, croquettes, or even “glue!”

12 sheets of phyllo dough, thawed overnight in the refrigerator
6 oz (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, melted and kept warm
4 4-oz salmon fillets, skinned, rinsed and patted dry
6 oz spinach or other sturdy greens, rinsed and blanched (thaw and drain if using frozen)
4 oz fresh chevre
1 T lemon juice
2 T olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 400F. In a food processor, combine spinach or greens with chevre, lemon juice, olive oil, and a pinch of salt and pepper; process until greens are finely chopped and mixture is spreadable.

Lay out one sheet of phyllo on a countertop and brush with melted butter. Working quickly, layer phyllo sheets and melted butter until you have a stack of 6, ending with butter. Use a sharp knife to cut this bundle in half the short way across so that you have two rectangles. Season the salmon on both sides with salt and pepper, then set one salmon fillet vertically on one of the rectangles; you should have an inch or so of clearance at the top and bottom. Smear with a quarter of the goat cheese mixture, then fold the short edges on top of the salmon, and roll it up like a burrito, finishing with the greens mixture oriented inside at the top and the ends of the phyllo on the bottom for a nice presentation. Wrap all the salmon this way, arrange on a prepared baking sheet, and brush the tops of each packet with the last of the melted butter.

Bake in a 400F oven for about 30 minutes, until the phyllo is crisp and golden brown, and the salmon is cooked through.

Source: Freely adapted from Bella Lately.

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