Salmon and mushrooms, wrapped in phyllo

Ah, time for the holidays! And this recipe is great if you’re having friends or family over for a holiday dinner. It’s easy, not too time-consuming, and delicious, not to mention very elegant. (What’s not to like about something wrapped in phyllo pastry?)

The one caveat is to make sure to get your package of phyllo out of the freezer at least one hour and preferably two before you begin to assemble the salmon pastries.

As usual, start by gathering your ingredients. For this recipe (which serves 4), you’ll need about one pound of fresh salmon fillet, six sheets of phyllo, one 8-ounce (225-gram) package of fresh mushrooms, one small leek, olive oil, thyme leaves, and (optional) anchovy paste. Not shown: olive oil, sea salt, and peppercorns.

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First, preheat the oven to 350 degrees, Fahrenheit. Rinse and thinly slice the leek (which will produce about 1/2 cup of paper-thin bits).

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Then, rinse, trim, and coarsely chop the fresh mushrooms.

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Heat about two tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil in a large sauté pan, then (optional!) add about two teaspoons of anchovy paste. (I love anchovy paste! It adds a rich umami-like flavor to food.)

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When the anchovy paste has melted (less than a minute), add the chopped leeks and stir until they start to soften.

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Then add the chopped mushrooms and sauté over medium-high heat until the mushrooms release their juices and soften.

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After the mushrooms are done, pour into a separate bowl. Then, in the heated sauté pan, place the salmon, skin-side down, for 30 seconds.

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Remove from heat and put, skin-side up, onto a cutting board. Peel off the skin. (This method is a lot easier and safer than slicing it off with a knife!)

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Cut the pound of salmon into four separate fillets. Now you’re ready to assemble everything. You’ll want to move quickly at this point since phyllo dries out fast.

Unroll the six sheets of phyllo — carefully! — and cut in half, cross-wise.

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In other words, in this photo, you’d be cutting these sheets from the middle of the bottom edge up. Then spray (or brush) each sheet of the phyllo with olive oil. For each salmon fillet, you’ll use three layers of phyllo.

Place one fillet about one-third of the way down on the phyllo and spoon one-quarter of the mushroom-leek mixture (using a fork or slotted spoon) on top of the fillet.

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Fold the bottom third up over the fillet.

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Tuck the top layer under the fillet.

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Fold the edges under, like an envelope.

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Spray a large, heavy baking pan (13″ x 9″) with Pam spray or olive oil. Then place the fillets into the pan, and sprinkle with sea salt and freshly grated pepper.

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Place on a middle rack and bake, uncovered, for 20 minutes. Then raise the heat to 375 degrees and bake for another five minutes until the phyllo is golden. (If you happen to have a convection oven, definitely turn on the convection feature at this point.)

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Let sit for five minutes before plating and serving. Then enjoy!

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We served this tonight with a 2013 Afton Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon. It was a perfect pairing! The black fruit and light acidic uplift of the wine matched the pastry, rich salmon, and earthiness of the mushrooms superbly.

Cheers!

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