One of my favorite appetizers is spanakopita. Costco tempts me regularly with their 50 piece frozen pack for a reasonable price. “That would be so much easier,” I say. “It won’t taste the same,” says Hubs. I know he’s right, but the memory of the process is it’s difficult. I’m not sure where it’s hard when I try to recall why I feel this way. Gathering the ingredients? Making the filling? Of course, working with phyllo. But wait, I remind myself, phyllo doesn’t scare me. So what is it?
Today I’m going to break down the process for everyone. This will be a pictorial to remind all of us it’s not that hard to create the flakey goodness wrapped around a savory filling.
First, you start with the filling. Ina Garten has a terrific recipe. Maybe the part I don’t like is draining the chopped spinach and making sure it’s void of moisture. Patience is not my strong point. It’s usually still cold and freezes my hands. If you’re the same as me with delicate hands, power through it. The end result is worth it.
Now you’re ready to start the build. This is where most are lost. Prep is key when you’re working with phyllo. It requires melted butter and bread crumbs for this recipe. I ended up not having regular breadcrumbs, so panko did the job. Having them right next to your work area will save your sanity.
When you open the phyllo packet, the sheets start to dry out immediately. This is your enemy. Use a damp (not overly wet) paper towel to cover the sheets while you work. If you don’t, your sheets will stick together.
Take one sheet at a time and paint the butter across the sheet. It doesn’t have to be pretty, just slather butter everywhere. Then scatter bread crumbs. Layer on top of each other and repeat 3 times.
If your sheets do stick together, don’t worry! Mine do too. Let it tear. (Feel that freedom?) You’ll put another sheet over it for the next layer. No one will even notice in the end. This example happened as I tried to take pictures between the shots.
After you have the layers built on each other, it’s time to decide if you’re doing dinner or an appetizer. If dinner, cut down the middle lengthwise. I went for appetizers so slice to make 5 rows. You can do this with a sharp butcher knife or even a pizza cutter.
Now you’re ready for filling. Make sure you don’t overstuff. I used to eyeball it, but I regularly overfilled. One tablespoon will be plenty.
See, it’s plenty.
Now it’s time to wrap. Take the corner and pull it over to make a triangle. This is like folding a flag. Remember your days from Campfire Girls or Boy Scouts? Here is a progression of all the stages:
Once all folded, give another swipe of butter and then follow Ina’s instructions for bake time. For the appetizers, cut the time down to around 15 minutes and check to make sure they are golden brown without turning to burnt. (It’s a fine line.)
In the end, you will have this:
It will only take one bite to convince you it was worth the effort to make it from scratch. Your guests will be amazed at your mastery of the flakey pastry. And you will beam with pride that you concurred this once imagined fear.