A Spanakopita Fail
I really struggled a title for this post. I went with the minimalist title, explaining exactly what you will find in this post, but I had a lot of other thoughts. Titles like:
– When Spanakopita Goes Wrong
– Good Dough. Bad Spinach.
– Greek Grandmothers Have It Tough
And the more subtle:
– On the Importance of Reading
Before I get too far into what went wrong, let me show what I mean when I say fail.
When I picked this recipe for the poll last week, I was pretty certain that it would be a front runner. Everybody loves a good spanakopita right?! Even the frozen variety are actually pretty tasty and not so much work.
Honestly, after skimming the ingredients and instructions for this recipe in How to Roast a Lamb, I thought I had a pretty good handle on it. I wasn’t planning on making the phyllo dough from scratch because I’m not absolutely demented. So my only real concern is that I’d never made clarified butter before or actually worked with phyllo dough, but neither of those issues turned out to be my downfall.
My first real problem was more about expectations than execution. You see, what I had in mind was a traditional spanakopita. The small, almost snack-sized pieces that are flaky and delicious! But when I started actually reading Chef Psilakis’s recipe, I realized that his recipe is something completely different. It’s closer to creamed spinach in my mind than spanakopita.
His recipe basically fills a baked phyllo shell with a creamed spinach mixture. Because you pre-bake the phyllo dough, it’s really impossible to cut the pieces. I could see how this could work for a family style dinner but I’m not really sure why it’s better than a normal spanakopita. You still have to do all the work with the phyllo dough and then you just have to mush it up when you serve the dish.
For the top of the dish, instead of having a nice crust of phyllo dough, he just bakes off a few sheets and crumbles them on top. Interesting, but not really what I was going for.
I’m telling you this because I think even if I would have executed the recipe perfectly, I’m not sure it would have met my expectations.
But of course, I didn’t execute it perfectly. Or even close.
These were my two major errors, one of them far worse than the other.
First, I didn’t do a great job on the bechamel sauce. Even though I’ve made this kind of sauce many times before, I got in a rush and ended up with a kind of lumpy sauce. Also, I used 1% milk rather than whole milk because that’s what I had. That was a mistake because the sauce didn’t get quite as thick as I would have liked. The sauce was okay, but not great.
Second, and my ultimate demise on this project, involved my inability to read the recipe. The recipe called for 2 CUPS of bechamel sauce and the directions for the sauce were on a different page. This makes total sense because he uses the sauce throughout the book.
What I didn’t realize though was that the sauce recipe on the other page made a QUART of sauce. Also known as 4 CUPS. So, when I poured all of my sauce into my spinach, I looked down and said, “Huh. That looks kind of like cream of spinach soup.” Because that’s more or less what I had made. (See above photo for evidence.)
If I would have not made this error, I think the recipe in general would have been fine. The bechamel tasted fine – it’s texture was just a bit funky. The phyllo was crunchy and delicious but not in cute little triangles. It was really my inability to actually read that caused this to be a complete failure.
So What Now? I know. I promised you all a spanakopita recipe today and instead hopefully I gave you a post worth chuckling over. But trust me. Spanakopita will not be my downfall. I will defeat it over the weekend and I will post an actual recipe with tons of hopefully lovely photos next Thursday.
As an aside: If anyone has a good spanakopita recipe… I’m, ahem… in the market. So email me or something.