My mom has French origins and always cooks in typical French style, but for some reason when she came to this country over 50 years ago she fell in love with American cream cheese. It's probably the only processed food she has in her kitchen even today, and she continues to pooh-pooh anything not French—except cream cheese. I've tried making this with goat cheese (French!), but it just doesn't come out the same. I recently asked my mom what she considers her "best recipe", and she said Leek Fillo—which she had just made a week earlier for the first time. What!? The best? "Oui! My meilleure recette!" I tried it, it was very good, but I still prefer the classic with spinach. My mom's recipes are notoriously difficult to pin down, as she changes them constantly and she isn't even sure what she puts in. You can make this with leeks instead of spinach, or mushrooms and onions, or just cheese. As long as you put enough butter and salt in, it's always a winner. - AlainB —AlainB
Test Kitchen Notes
I jumped at the chance to test this recipe because it really brought back memories of my mother making a similar recipe. Filo dough would have been pretty "exotic" for her back then, so it was a very special type of dish for her to make—a company kind of dish. I followed AlainB's directions, restraining myself from changing from frozen spinach to fresh spinach and from Philly cream cheese to one with less stabilizers. Of course it was delicious—full of buttery filo and cheesy spinach. One note: I remember all of my family was skinny back then! My husband was horrified at all the fat the goes into the recipe. I reminded him that fat keeps your coat glossy! - dymnyno
Fillo Pastery, frozen
frozen Chopped Spinach, 10 oz each
Philadelphia Cream Cheese
1 1/2 cups
shredded Emmantaler cheese (Swiss or French!)
Remove Fillo from freezer, allow to defrost for 1/2 hr.
Take frozen chopped spinach (not whole spinach!) and cook it for 10 minutes or so until it is fully defrosted. Put it in a colander and squeeze out every little bit of water you can. You should even use a paper towel to get all the water out.
In a large mixing bowl, combine the spinach, the eggs, the cream cheese, and the Emmanthaler. (You can also throw in any other cheeses you might have laying around.) Add salt and pepper to taste, and mix well until blended. Then add a little more salt.
Melt the butter in a bowl, and add 1 tbs olive oil to it. Mix with a pastry brush.
Take a 9x12 baking dish (glass pyrex works best) and butter the bottom and sides with the pastry brush.
Unfold your fillo. You will only need half of a typical 1 lb pkg, the sheets should be exactly 9x12. Place the sheets one by one in the baking dish. After every other one, brush the fillo with the butter mixture. In all, put down 8 sheets.
Add in the spinach mixture, spread evenly. Then cover with 8 more sheets, continuing to butter every other one. On the last one, brush again with butter, and sprinkle sesame seeds on top. You can also use grated Parmesan.
Cook in the oven for about 40 minutes, until it begins to brown on top. Remove from oven and let rest for at least 20 minutes. Never cover it—my mom would kill you, it gets all soggy! It is best to eat just slightly warm.