Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Spanakopita aka Spinach Pies

Growing up I was a bit of a picky eater. I absolutely refused to eat cold cut sandwiches for lunches in school. So what did I eat instead? Spanakopita. That's right, as a kid I chose to eat SPINACH instead of sandwiches. I always was an odd ball but I blame the Greek in me (or maybe my love of Popeye cartoons). Now that I'm a grown ass man and enjoy delicious sandwiches, I don't eat spanakopita as often. However, they are still delicious. Incredibly crunchy rich outside that reveals a beautiful pillow-esque filling of spinach and feta. Everyone seems to love these - especially at potlucks. The only drawback is everyone will beg you to make these for every subsequent party. This is one of those dishes that everyone assumes is super complicated and they could never make at home but it's the exact opposite. It, however, can be a bit tedious if you're folding all of them by yourself.

There are two major hurdles making spinach pies: learning how to fold and learning how to deal with phyllo. Folding spanakopita isn't complex but it takes time to become a master at it. I've tried my best in this recipe to explain how to fold them with an animated GIF and full instructions. The biggest issue though, is working with phyllo. It never seems to want to do what you want it to do. It's like that one unruly child you see at the mall that goes around touching its grimy little hands on everything and everyone in sight. Phyllo pretty much is soggy paper. If it dries out, lifting a sheet will cause it to immediately crack. If you get it wet it gets stuck to another sheet making it impossible to separate. Even when its perfect, folding it can be a large issue. The only way to overcome all of this is just being patient. Your first time may not be pretty but you'll get better1.

Qty Ingredient Procedure
1 package frozen phyllo
  1. Thaw your phyllo as per instructions on the box.
20 oz frozen spinach (2 packages)
  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F.
  2. Drain as much water out of the spinach without completely wringing it out.
  3. Combine the spinach, green onion, dill, and feta. Taste the mixture to adjust for salt and pepper. I normally lean heavy on pepper. Then add the eggs and mix together thoroughly.
6 finely chopped green onion stalks
6 oz feta crumbles
1-2 sprigs finely chopped fresh dill2
2 eggs
olive oil
  1. Roll the spanakopita as shown in the GIF above(also described in the text below) oiling between each layer.
  2. Place the spanakopita on an oiled baking sheet and bake for 20-25 minutes until golden brown.

Thawing the phyllo may sound like an obvious first step but it is critical when it comes to phyllo. If it doesn't thaw fully, the sheets will be harder to separate than two legos. Normally leaving it on the counter still wrapped for a couple hours will do the trick.

Thaw the spinach per instructions on the bag (normally nuke it with a little bit of water). You want to press out as much excess water from the spinach as possible. I normally squeeze it between my hands. If the water starts to run a very deep green, you're taking too much water out of your spinach. Combine this with the dill, green onion, and feta. At this point taste the mixture and season with salt and pepper. I really enjoy my leafy greens with lots of pepper so I go heavy on it. Add your eggs to finish the filling.

Now you need to set up a folding station. Taking the time to set up a good spot for folding these will dictate whether or not you hate rolling spanakopita. It's the difference between getting your favorite stall at work and a porta-potty. Place a bowl with olive oil and a pastry brush nearby. Have your filling with a spoon that seems like two tablespoons or so. Roll out the sheets of phyllo and place a damp paper towel over them to ensure they don't go too dry on you.

You are now ready to fold these suckers like origami. Lay out two3 sheets of phyllo on top of each other; brush with olive oil. Fold in half again followed by another brushing of olive oil. Do this one more time so you have a long strip. Place 2 tablespoons of filling at the bottom. Now, take the lower corner and bring it to the opposite side. Then start to fold the triangle up the strip of phyllo. Let the weight of the spinach pie do the work for you - you want these to be tight enough to keep the filling in but loose enough to let steam escape. Once completed, brush the top of the spanakopita with olive oil. If you are having a hard time following the instructions, look at the GIF above on how to fold them. Place on an oiled baking sheet and place in a 350°F oven for 20-25 minutes or until brown and crusty.

  1. There is a super shitty joke about losing your virginity in there 
  2. I personally think most people put too much dill in spinach pies. I normally throw in half a teaspoon dried dill because I never have the fresh stuff. It can easily be omitted from the recipe 
  3. You may think you know better than me and want to use more than two sheets of phyllo but if you do, your pies will be end up with the mouth feel of a Butterfinger. With two sheets, you approximately have 16 layers after you've folded it; each additional sheet will add roughly 8 layers. 

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