And just like that, it’s Easter weekend. Naturally, because I live in Canada, we’re in for some terrible weather this weekend. It’s pretty much tradition at this point. If there’s a long weekend in the spring, the weather will be crap. But even if spring will be MIA this weekend, I’m keeping hope alive with this incredibly springy Spanakopita Salmon Wellington. This dish is exactly what it sounds like, a spanakopita-inspired take on salmon wellington. It feeds four or more and it makes for an impressive centerpiece, so let’s get into it.
This recipe starts out innocently enough with spinach. And you’re going to need a lot. Like, close to a pound’s worth. And when you’re talking about something as light as a feather as spinach, that’s close to six cups. It will feel like too much but when it starts to wilt, your anxieties will recede. Spinach cooks down a considerable amount and when you squeeze out the excess moisture, it will become even more compact.
I chose to wilt my spinach in a skillet but you can blanch yours if you prefer. I went with a skillet because I didn’t want to add any extra moisture to the greens. Once your spinach is wilted, transfer it to a bowl lined with cheesecloth. Once the spinach is cool, you’re going to form the cheesecloth into a bundle and squeeze the greens for all they’re worth. Seriously, show them no mercy. We want to get as much moisture out of the spinach as possible. This will reduce the wateriness of the filling and increase the likelihood of a crisp crust in our finished dish.
A frequent problem that comes up whenever you cook anything en croute is a soggy bottom. Crisp pastry is always the ideal but when you’re wrapping it around something like salmon or spinach that tends to leak moisture as it cooks, that crispness can be elusive. That’s why I loved this trick I picked up from Serious Eats’ spanakopita recipe. They suggested I add trahanas to my spinach and feta mixture. Trahanas is sort of like pasta. It’s made using fermented grain and yogurt and is often used as a thickening agent. In the Serious Eats recipe, trahanas is used to absorb the moisture from the greens in the spanakopita filling to reduce the likelihood of a soggy bottom. Couscous, barley, and rice are all suitable substitutes for trahanas. I went with couscous and it worked like a charm.
The rest of the spanakopita filling is made up of green onions, dill, parsley, and of course, a whole whack of feta cheese. There is also an egg to further bind the filling. Think of it as an insurance policy. But prior to adding the egg, make sure you give the filling a taste and season it with salt accordingly. How much salt you add will depend on the saltiness of the feta you used.
So that’s the spanakopita filling done, let’s talk salmon. You’ll need a whole side of salmon for this recipe. And you will need it skinned and boned. I had a little trouble finding a skinned salmon, so I went ahead and removed the skin with a fillet knife. I’m fairly comfortable doing this, so it wasn’t a big deal. But if the thought of doing it makes you edgy, it’s worth seeking out a fishmonger you trust and asking them to do it for you. I prefer skinless salmon for this dish because I think the skin is just liable to get soggy and not really add anything to the dish. If I was crispy the salmon up in a pan, well, that would be another story.
I dressed my salmon very simply. This Spanakopita Salmon Wellington has more than enough going on anyway. I opted for a simple seasoning blend of salt, demerara sugar, and lemon zest. I always love to add a bit of sweetness to my salmon. But if that doesn’t appeal to you, feel free to leave the sugar off.
Now, it’s time to assemble and I’m going to be honest, this can be a bit tricky especially if you’ve never worked with phyllo pastry before. Also, full disclosure – I did not make my pastry, I purchased it and I encourage you to do the same. By all accounts, making phyllo pastry is a harrowing experience. But even if you’ve elected to buy your pastry you’re still going to have to be gentle and patient with it. Phyllo is very prone to tearing, so handle it with care.
The first thing you’re going to do is line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Then, you’re going to lay a sheet of defrosted phyllo down on top of the paper and brush it all over with melted butter. And then you’re going to do that again seven more times for a total of eight sheets of buttered phyllo. Now, here’s the brain teaser portion of this recipe. You’re going to place your filling on top of the phyllo pastry in the opposite order. So first goes your salmon, skinned-side-up. Next, cover the salmon with your spanakopita filling. Then wrap the whole thing up, so the seams are facing you.
Now, for the slightly stressful part. We’re going to flip the whole dang Spanakopita Salmon over. And we’re going to do that by placing a cutting board on top of the salmon. Then we’re going to invert the baking sheet and then, carefully, slide the salmon back onto the sheet. Brush the pastry with butter, sprinkle it with sesame seeds, and heave a sigh of relief. All you have to do from here is bake it in the oven until golden.
That’s pretty much everything you need to know about this Spanakopita Salmon Wellington. An impressive and decadent spring-friendly main that’s sure to impress the lucky souls you serve it to. Happy Easter to everyone who’s celebrating and I wish you all a fabulous long weekend.
Spanakopita Salmon Wellington
- 1 baking sheet
- 1 skillet
- 1 piece of cheesecloth
- 312g (11oz) baby spinach
- 1 yellow onion diced
- 200g (7oz) feta cheese crumbled
- 2 scallions thinly sliced
- ¼ cup flat leaf parsely finely chopped
- ¼ cup dill finely chopped
- ¼ cup uncooked couscous
- 1 large egg
- 1 side salmon deboned and skinned
- 1 tsp demerar sugar
- ½ tsp kosher salt
- ½ lemon zested
- ½ cup butter melted
- 8 sheets phyllo pastry
- sesame seeds for sprinkling
- Preheat the oven to 400°F. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper and set it aside.
- Working in batches, wilt the spinach in a large skillet over medium heat. Transfer the spinach to a bowl lined with cheesecloth and set it aside to cool. When the spinach is cool enough to handle, form it into a bundle and squeeze out the excess moisture. Discard the liquid and place the drained spinach in the bowl. Set it aside.312g (11oz) baby spinach
- Add the olive oil to the skillet and heat it until shimmering. Add the onion and a generous pinch of salt. Sauté the onion until just translucent. Transfer the onion to the bowl with the spinach.1 yellow onion
- To the spinach and the onion add the scallions, parsley, dill, and feta. Stir to combine and taste. Add additional salt accordingly. Stir in the couscous followed by the egg and set the mixture aside.200g (7oz) feta cheese, 2 scallions, ¼ cup flat leaf parsely, ¼ cup dill, ¼ cup uncooked couscous, 1 large egg
- Season the salmon on both sides with the salt, sugar, and lemon zest. Set it aside as well.1 side salmon, 1 tsp demerar sugar, ½ tsp kosher salt, ½ lemon
- Arrange a sheet of phyllo dough on the baking sheet. ** Brush the sheet all over with some of the butter. Place the next sheet on top and repeat until all 8 sheets are stacked on top of each other and brushed with butter.½ cup butter, 8 sheets phyllo pastry
- Place the salmon in the center of the pastry, skinned-side-up. Place the spinach filling on top of the salmon and fold all the edges of the phyllo dough towards the center, ensuring the seams overlap.
- Place a cutting board on top of the wellington and invert the baking sheet. Slide the wellington back on top of the baking sheet and brush the surface with the remaining butter and sprinkle with sesame seeds. Transfer the wellington to the oven and bake for 30 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through.sesame seeds for sprinkling
- When the wellington is golden, take it out of the oven and let cool for 10 minutes before slicing and serving.