Eric Akis: Little packets of halibut heaven

Eric AkisI use phyllo pastry in many ways, but if I could only choose two recipes to make with it, one would definitely have be halibut baked in phyllo. The other would be spanakopita, a Greek-style creation with a spinach and feta filling.

I had a craving for the latter last week, but also found it hard to ignore that B.C. halibut is in season and at its freshest. So I decided to combine the two in single-serving parcels I call Greek-style halibut baked phyllo. Today’s recipe and step-by-step photos guide you on how to prepare it.

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If you’ve forgotten, phyllo is an ultra-thin, Greek-style pastry sold in boxes in the freezer section of most supermarkets.

Of course, you have to thaw it and the best way to do this is to plan ahead and place the unopened box of pastry in the refrigerator the day before you need it. It will be thawed and ready to use the next day.

If you forgot to do that, you could remove it from its box and thaw it, still sealed in its plastic packaging, at cool room temperature the day you need it. It will take a few hours to thaw.

In today’s recipe, I’ve layered the phyllo sheets together with extra virgin olive oil spray. It’s a product that enables you to easily, lightly and evenly spray and coat — no brush required — each sheet of phyllo before setting on the next one.

Once baked and plated, I served the phyllo-wrapped fish with tzatziki sauce. Other accompaniments that would go well with the fish are Greek-style potatoes or rice, and sliced fresh tomatoes, cucumbers and olives.

Greek-style Halibut in Phyllo with Tzatziki

Enjoy this fresh B.C. halibut with a spinach/feta filling sealed and baked in single-serving phyllo parcels. The parcels are served with a dollop tzatziki.

 

Preparation: 40 minutes
Cooking time: About 22 minutes
Makes: four servings

 

For the filling

1 (5 oz.) tub baby spinach

100 gram feta cheese, crumbled

2 Tbsp freshly grated Parmesan cheese

1 large egg, beaten

2 tsp chopped fresh dill

1 large garlic clove, minced

Salt and ground white pepper to taste

For the fish:

8 sheets phyllo pastry

• extra virgin olive oil spray (see Note 1)

4 (5 oz./140 gram) halibut fillets

• salt and ground white pepper to taste

3/4 cup homemade or store-bought tzatziki sauce, or to taste (see Note 2)

• lemon slices or wedges, for garnish

 

To make the filling, place 1/2-inch of water in a large pot and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Add spinach, cover and cook until it just wilts. Cool spinach in cold water, and then drain well in a fine sieve. Press and squeeze on the spinach to get out as much moisture from it as you can.

Set spinach on a cutting board, coarsely chop and then transfer to a bowl. Add the remaining ingredients and mix well to combine. Set aside.

Preheat oven to 425 F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Set one sheet of phyllo on a work surface and very lightly coat with olive oil spray. Top with another sheet of phyllo and lightly coat it with olive oil spray. Repeat twice more and you should layer four sheets of phyllo together.

Cut those layered sheets, widthwise, in half, and then place 1/4 of the spinach mixture near the bottom centre of each one. Now set a piece of halibut on top of the spinach mixture and season with salt and pepper.

Fold the sides of the phyllo slightly over the fish and then roll into a cylinder. Set the fish on the baking sheet and coat the tops with a little olive oil spray.

Coat, layer, cut, fill, fold and roll the remaining four phyllo sheets like you did the first four. Set the other two parcels of phyllo-wrapped halibut on the baking sheet with first two and lightly coat the top of them with olive oil spray.

Bake the fish in the middle of the oven 20 minutes, until golden and cooked through. Serve as is. Or, before plating, cut each phyllo-wrapped piece of halibut in half, widthwise, at a slight angle and plate as shown in the recipe photo. Serve halibut with a dollop of tzatziki sauce.

Note 1: Extra virgin olive oil spray is sold in the oil aisle of many supermarkets. I used Bertolli brand. If you want to use butter to brush and coat the phyllo with instead, replace the olive oil spray with 1/2 cup of butter, melted.

Note 2: If you want to make your own tzatziki, set a large, fine sieve over a bowl. Coarsely grate half a medium English cucumber into that sieve. Press on the cucumber and squeeze out as much liquid as you can. Discard the liquid.

Transfer the grated cumber to the bowl and mix in 1 1Ú4 cups thick, Greek-style yogurt, 2 Tbsp chopped fresh dill, 1 medium garlic clove, minced, 1/2 tsp finely grated lemon zest, 1 Tbsp lemon juice and salt and white pepper to taste. Cover and refrigerate this tzatziki until needed.

How to seal halibut in phyllo pastry

Once you’ve layered your phyllo sheets and cut them in half as described in the recipe, the photos below will show you how to fill, fold and roll them into single serving parcels.

XX-0406-ERIC2.jpgStep 1

Place quarter of the spinach mixture near the bottom centre of each four sheet stack. Set a piece of halibut on top of the spinach and season with salt and pepper.

XX-0406-ERIC3.jpgStep 2

Fold the sides of the phyllo over to partially cover the halibut.

 

XX-0406-ERIC4.jpgStep 3

Roll the phyllo up to form a parcel and seal the filling inside.

Eric Akis is the author of The Great Rotisserie Chicken Cookbook (Appetite by Random House). His columns appear in the Life section Wednesday and Sunday.

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