Kids won't eat fish? Wrap it in Phyllo. Husband/Wife/Partner just invited the boss over for dinner and you've only got leftovers in the fridge? Wrap it in Phyllo. Need appetizers for a huge dinner party that you can make the day before and refrigerate and bake right before serving? Wrap it in Phyllo. It's easy, versatile, and makes everything look and taste better.
Phyllo (Filo) pastry dough means "leaf" in Greek and it is a dough well worth having on hand. Although the flaky pastry has a Greek name, it's origins are Turkish (Istanbul) dating back to the Ottoman reign. Phyllo is often associated with the famous Turkish dessert, Baklava, that is a rich honey and pistachio treat. However, there are countless uses for it.
I really do think phyllo is fun! It can be molded into any shape: cone, present, triangle, circle, rectangle, etc and filled with any thing left over in the fridge, savory or sweet. Although you can make the dough by hand (very difficult with unsatisfactory results) it is easier to purchase at the grocery store. Phyllo dough is flour that has been compressed with water and just a little oil. Then it is rolled through huge machines that elongate the glutens in the flour to make paper thin layers.
How to use it: I normally use about three layers at a time. Make sure they are properly defrosted if previously frozen and not dried out. Each layer needs to be brushed lightly with melted butter (clarified preferred, but not essential) or olive oil. Place the layers on top of each other, put filling in the center, and shape the dough around it. Voila! Bake it for around 6-10 minutes at 350˚F / 170˚C until pastry is golden brown.
Any filling used should already be precooked or something that only needs to be warmed through like goat cheese with fresh basil and tomato (yummy!). Just make sure filling ingredients aren't too soupy or it will turn the dough to mush.
Recently I made a last minute dinner for my visiting parents using frozen scallops and one carrot and one leek. The results was heavenly. I julienned the veggies and sautéd with butter until al dente and separately cooked the scallops until just warm in the center. Then I buttered my phyllo dough and made a bed of the carrots and leeks with the scallops on top.
I formed the pastry dough into a big peony shaped flower around the filling and loosely tied the top with kitchen string to help keep it's form while cooking. What fun to cut into at the dinner table and inhale the delicious steam coming through the openings in the pastry!
I have also used phyllo to wrap individual par cooked rack of lamb with a pistachio/herb dressing, confit pigeon leg with foie gras and duxelles, and much much more. The fun is endless. Kids like to play with it too – it's like a wrapping a present and then getting to eat it afterwards.
Recipes to follow: Scallops in Phyllo Dough
Scallops in Phyllo Dough
1 Package Phyllo Dough, thawed if frozen
1 Package of scallops (small or big, doesn't matter)
1 Carrot, julienne
1 Leek, julienne
4T butter for scallops and vegetables
1/2 Stick butter melted, fat solids removed
Herbs if desired: fresh or dry thyme or chives
1. To wash leek peel off outer few tough leaves and chop off the dark green top part (reserve for soup stock if desired). Cut leek halfway down vertically from top and wash well in cold water. Dirt often hides in the inner leaves due to the way leeks are grown.
2. Slice leek all the way in half vertically, take out little core center leaves (they're tough too) and julienne into thin strips.
3. Peel carrot and julienne into thin strips
4. Heat 1T of butter in a skillet on medium heat with a splash of olive oil. Add vegetables and herbs if using and cook until al dente: not mushy, but not crunchy. Add a pinch of salt and a twist of pepper. Remove from heat and set aside.
5. In the same pan heat the remaining butter on medium heat and add scallops frozen or fresh. Depending on size and freshness, cook until they are just warm in the center but still translucent. Over cooked they become rubbery. Drain jus from scallops and reserve both away from heat.
6. Place Phyllo pastry on a flat clean surface. Lay 3 layers on top of each other and cut a square about 6" X 6". It can be bigger or smaller depending on size of scallops. Brush each square layer lightly with melted butter.
7. Make a bed of leek & carrot in the middle of pastry square. Top with scallops, drizzle with a little jus, and gently fold pastry around scallops. If too much jus is added the dough will get soggy in the oven. Tie top part gently with kitchen string to create a tissue paper effect.
8. Place on lined baking sheet and preheat oven to 350˚F / 170˚C.
9. Drizzle some more melted butter on top of pastry and bake in oven for 7-10 minutes or until pastry is golden brown.
10. To serve, cut kitchen string off and plate. Serve with diced tomatoes and some left over jus if desired.