Every once in awhile Alex and I take out all the stops and make a crazily labor-intensive meal. It seems that every time we decide to stuff something, be it dumplings, pan-fried buns, or spanakopita, it takes us forever. For instance, with this recipe we took the phyllo dough out of the freezer around 2pm so that it would be defrosted in time for dinner. According to the package instructions, the best way to defrost them phyllo is to leave the box of phyllo out on the counter at room temperature for 5 hours. Realistically Alex and I can only do that on the weekend, unless we want to eat dinner at midnight. On my way home from work this evening (yes I know it's a Sunday, but sometimes I have to go into work on the weekend) I swung by the grocery store to pick up the last remaining ingredient for our spanakopita. I had already picked up everything, we ended up using the eggs this morning for breakfast so I had to go pick some of those up. Once I got home it was about 8:30 pm and then we had to go through the whole process of making the filling (which Alex had already started on). And then I had to figure out how to butter the phyllo dough and roll it up properly. I'm not going to lie, it was another 10:00 pm dinner. I imagine that working with phyllo dough gets easier the more you do it, but man that stuff is fragile. The last time we made a meal this crazy was when we made our Panfried Pork and Scallion Mini-Buns. Granted, those mini-buns had more active cooking time because we had to make the dough, rather than just defrost some phyllo.
While this meal was easier to make than the mini-buns, the mini-buns were worth the extra effort. At a certain point if you are going to put forth a ton of effort you might as well put forth a little extra effort for a more successful final product. Don't get me wrong, these spanakopita were far from bad. In fact, they were quite good. With a few tweaks here and there to the filling and a little practice with phyllo dough, they could be even better. But they weren't the best spanakopita I have ever had and if you're going to go to the trouble to make them at home, you really want them to be amazing. If I can go to Trader Joe's and buy a package of frozen spanakopita that are as good as the ones I am spending hours to make at home, that really makes you wonder why you are bothering. With all of that said, I'm really glad that we finally bit the bullet and made this recipe because I have wanted to make it for awhile now. I'm not sure if I will be making it again anytime in the near future (esp since there is a little Greek take out shop a few blocks from our apartment that supposedly has amazing spanakopita that we have yet to try), but I'm pretty excited to add a new dish to my repertoire.
Recipe after the jump!
Barefoot Contessa Back to Basics: Fabulous Flavor from Simple Ingredients
By Ina Garten
1/4 cup good olive oil
1 cup chopped yellow onion
3 scallions, white and green parts, chopped
2 (10 oz) packages frozen chopped spinach, defrosted
4 extra-large eggs, lightly beaten
3 tbsp freshly grated Parmesan cheese
plain dry bread crumbs
1 tsp grated nutmeg
2 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
2 cups small-diced feta cheese (12 oz)
3 tbsp toasted pine nuts
24 sheets frozen phyllo dough, defrosted
1/4 lb (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted
flaked sea salt, such as Maldon, for sprinkling
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
Heat the olive oil in a medium saute pan, add the onion, and cook for 5 minutes over medium-low heat. Add the scallions, and cook for another 2 minutes until the scallions are wilted but still green. Meanwhile, gently squeeze most of the water out of the spinach and place it in a large bowl.
When the onion and scallions are done, add them to the spinach. Mix in the eggs, Parmesan cheese, 3 tbsp bread crumbs, nutmeg, s&p. Gently fold in the feta and pine nuts.
Place one sheet of phyllo dough flat on a work surface with the long end in front of you. Brush the dough lightly with butter and sprinkle it with a tsp of bread crumbs. Working quickly, slide another sheet of phyllo dough on top of the first, brush it with butter and sprinkle lightly with bread crumbs (using just enough bread crumbs so the layers of phyllo don't stick together). Pile 4 layers total on top of each other this way, brushing each with butter and sprinkling with bread crumbs. Cut sheets of phyllo in half lengthwise. Place 1/3 cup spinach filling on the shorter end and roll the phyllo up diagonally as if folding a flag. Then fold the triangle of phyllo over straight and then diagonally again. Continue folding first diagonally and then straight until you reach the end of the sheet. The filling should be totally enclosed. Continue assembling phyllo layers and folding the filling until all of the filling is used. Place on a sheet pan, seam sides down. Brush with melted butter, sprinkle with flaked sea salt, and bake for 30-35 minutes, until the phyllo is browned and crisp.