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Eric Akis: Phyllo-wrapped salmon fillets are flaky and delicious

For those who’ve followed my column over the years, you’ll know one of my favourite ways to prepare fish is to wrap it in phyllo.

For those who’ve followed my column over the years, you’ll know one of my favourite ways to prepare fish is to wrap it in phyllo. It’s an ultra thin, Greek-style pastry that when layered, filled, folded and baked, becomes golden and flaky, a very welcoming place for a piece of fish.

In today’s recipe that fish is salmon and inside the phyllo I’ve accompanied it with sautéed, nicely seasoned mushrooms. I also served the fish with lemony leek sauce, bolstering its flavour even more.

Phyllo, also called filo, is made with such things as flour, water and oil. You could make it at home, but the process requires special training and a lot of room. That why most buy ready-to-use sheets of phyllo, which is sold frozen at supermarkets and what I used.

You, of course, need to thaw that phyllo before using it. To do that, set the box of frozen phyllo in the refrigerator overnight, where it will slowly thaw and be ready to use the next day. If you’re in more of a hurry, though, you could also leave it out at cool room temperature, where it will take a few hours to thaw.

When using that thawed phyllo, I’ll start by carefully opening the package and gently unfolding the sheets. I then remove the number of sheets I’ll need for the recipe and cover them until needed.

As for the unused sheets, sometimes I’ll fold and tightly package them up in amounts I think I’ll use the next time I’ll need phyllo and refreeze them. I’ve done this many times and had good results when thawing and using them.

Another option is to carefully fold up the unused sheets, slip them back into the plastic bag they came in, put that bag in another bag, tightly seal it and store the phyllo in refrigerator. It should keep there at least two weeks, at the ready to use in another dish requiring phyllo, of which there are many.

How to wrap salmon and mushrooms in phyllo

Step 1: Butter and layer four sheets of phyllo. Cut layered sheets in half, widthwise. Set a piece of salmon near the bottom end of each piece and top with mushrooms.

Step 2: Fold the sides of the phyllo partially over the salmon and mushrooms.

Step 3: Fold and roll the phyllo up to form a package, seal the salmon and mushrooms inside.

Phyllo-Wrapped Salmon and Mushrooms with Lemony Leek Sauce

Salmon fillets and sautéed mushrooms wrapped in phyllo and baked until golden, flaky and delicious. The tangy, creamy leek sauce makes things even more divine.

Preparation time: 30 minutes

Cooking time: about 35 minutes

Makes: two servings

4 tsp olive oil (divided)

8 small to medium brown mushrooms, sliced

2 Tbsp minced shallot or onion

1 medium garlic clove, minced

• salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

4 tsp chopped fresh dill (divided; see Eric options)

1/2 cup diced leek, white and pale green parts only

2 Tbsp lemon juice

1/2 cup whipping cream

3 to 4 Tbsp melted butter

2 ( 5- to 6-oz/140- to 170-gram) salmon fillets

Heat 2 tsp of the oil in a skillet set over medium, medium-high heat. Add mushrooms and shallot (or onion) and cook until mushrooms are tender and the moisture in them has evaporated, about six minutes. Mix in garlic and cook 30 to 60 seconds more. Remove mushrooms from the heat, season with salt and pepper, mix in 2 tsp of the dill, and then cool to temperature.

While mushrooms cool, make sauce by heating remaining 2 tsp oil in a small pot set over medium heat. Add leeks and cook until softened, about three to four minutes. Add lemon juice and bring to a simmer. Simmer juice until greatly reduced to about 1 tsp. Add cream, bring it to a simmer, and simmer until a lightly thickened sauce forms. Season sauce with salt and pepper and mix in the remaining 2 tsp dill. Remove sauce from the heat, cover and set aside until needed.

When mushroom have cooled, preheat oven to 425 F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Set a sheet of phyllo on a work surface and lightly butter it. Top with another sheet of phyllo and butter it. Repeat these steps with remaining phyllo.

Cut the sheets, widthwise, in half. Set a piece of salmon near the bottom end of each half piece of layered phyllo. Season the salmon with salt and pepper. Divide and top the fish with the mushrooms. Fold the sides of the phyllo over the fish, and then roll and fold into a package, sealing the salmon and mushrooms inside. Set salmon on the baking sheet, seamed side down. Brush the tops and sides of the phyllo with butter.

Bake salmon in the middle of the oven 16 to 18 minutes, or until pastry is rich golden. When salmon is almost cooked, uncover sauce and return to a simmer over medium-low heat.

When the packages of phyllo-wrapped salmon and mushrooms are cooked, serve as is, on a pool of the lemony leek sauce. Or, for a more artful presentation, before plating, cut each package in half at a slight angle with a sharp serrated knife as shown in the recipe photo.

Eric’s options: If you don’t care for dill, replace with another chopped fresh herb, to taste, such as tarragon or parsley.

Eric Akis is the author of eight cookbooks. His columns appear in the Life section Wednesday and Sunday.