My first introduction to phyllo dough was Baklava.
It's still, IMHO, the best possible use for it, even if it's so sweet it makes my teeth hurt and I can only tolerate a piece once a year….. It's still a D.O. (Digestive Org*sm).
I would never, ever consider making Baklava. The only possible way would be if I could figure out how to make it in a single serving size.
I do make other things with phyllo.
Working with commercial phyllo is not hard, scary, difficult or fraught with problems.
The only problem is that one little package contains around fifteen sheets. Like so many things, that means a wee bit of planning when one is cooking for two. Fortunately, it will keep for a week or two in the fridge, and can be frozen and thawed twice.
I should state that the above is my opinion and practice. The Official Food Police say that it IS challenging to work with and can only be kept a day or two once opened (it's flour and water!!!!).
But if you buy phyllo, and want to use it all up quickly, here are some ideas.
First, if you've never used it, here are a few tips:
It's delicate and tears easily, so be careful. Have a large enough, clean, dry, surface ready.
It can dry out quickly (but not instantaneously as some would have you believe). Have your filling ready before you start. Have your butter clarified (see below) / your olive oil ready and your pastry brush at the ready. Unroll the phyllo, remove one sheet, roll the rest back up and lay a towel or some cling film on top.
Many would say you can only use clarified butter. Depending on the filling I may use olive oil instead – it's easier and I think the phyllo browns better and is crispier.
Second, if you want to use clarified butter, here's how to make it:
Melt butter in small pan over low heat just so that it is melted. You will notice the white milk solids in the butter. We don't want these. With a small spoon skim off as much of the floating milk solids as you can. Then carefully pour the clear (mostly) butter into a glass measuring cup, leaving behind the remaining solids.
Now, the recipes:
Salmon Baked in Phyllo with Tarragon Cream Sauce
2 pieces of salmon, skinned, 12oz, (350gr) about 2" wide by 4" long by 1" thick (5cm X 10cm x 2.5 cm)
4 sheets of phyllo (filo) dough
3 tsp fresh dill weed
1/3 cup butter
Rinse salmon and pat dry. Clarify butter. Take 1 sheet of phyllo dough, brush lightly with butter, sprinkle with half of the dill. Place another sheet of phyllo on top and brush with butter. Place salmon on narrower end of dough about 3 inches from edge, the 'side that had skin on' down. Bring dough over salmon and fold in sides. The phyllo is now as wide as the salmon (4 inches). Roll the salmon forward one complete turn so that 'the side that had skin on' is once again, on the bottom. Cut off any remaining phyllo and discard. Brush both sides of packet with butter and place bottom side down on a baking sheet. Repeat with the other piece of salmon. Bake at 400F (200C) for 15 minutes or until golden brown. Remove and serve with Tarragon Cream Sauce on the side.
Tarragon Cream Sauce
3/4 cup (6oz, 180ml) chicken stock
1 medium shallot
1 tbs butter
1 1/2 tsp dried tarragon
1/2 tsp dill weed
1 tbs cornstarch (maizena) dissolved in 2 tbs water
1/3 cup (3oz, 90ml) Greek yogurt or crème fraiche
Finely chop shallot. In small saucepan over medium heat sauté shallots in butter until tender. Add tarragon, dill, stock and bring to a boil. Simmer 5 minutes. Strain. Return to a boil. Mix cornstarch in stock and add, stirring until thickened. Remove from heat and stir in crème fraiche. Cover and keep warm until serving.
And one more strudel….
Pimiento and Goat Cheese Strudel
4oz (120gr) pimiento or roasted red pepper, sliced
3oz (90gr) soft goat cheese
1/3 cup green olives, sliced
2 sheets of filo dough
2 tbs olive oil
Combine pepper, goat cheese and olives. Remove 1 sheet of pastry and cover the rest. Lay the sheet out flat and brush all over with olive oil, starting with the edges (they dry out fastest) and working in. Lay the second sheet on top and brush with olive oil. Spoon the pepper mixture about 2" (5cm) from the narrower edge. Roll the end over the top and continue rolling it up, like a jelly roll. Carefully lift or roll onto a lightly oiled baking sheet. Brush the top with olive oil and bake at 400F (200C) for 12 – 15 minutes, until the pastry is golden brown.
When done, remove to a cutting board. Cut in large slices and serve, with Caper Tomato Sauce on the side.
Caper Tomato Sauce
1 cup whole tomatoes, puréed
2 tbs capers
1 shallot, chopped
1 tsp lemon juice
1 tbs olive oil
Sauté shallots in olive oil until tender. Add remaining ingredients and heat through.