By Sara Moulton The Associated Press
With spring and Easter upon us, I offer a dish guaranteed to spruce up a seasonal brunch. It may look complicated, but it really couldn’t be simpler. The only hump to get over is fear of phyllo (also spelled filo), a pastry dough that originated in Turkey and that’s popular today in Turkey and Greece. That fear is based on phyllo’s singular thinness and delicacy, which can lead to cracking. But if you follow these tips, you should have no problem. And, hey, it certainly beats making pastry from scratch.
You’ll likely find phyllo dough in the frozen food section of your supermarket. Before working with it, you should let it defrost overnight in the refrigerator, not on the counter. After taking the stack of phyllo sheets out of the package, cover the top layer with a piece of plastic wrap, then cover the plastic wrap with a damp towel. You’ll work with just one sheet of phyllo at a time, keeping the rest under wraps.
In order to keep the phyllo moist and help it brown properly, you have to lightly brush both sides of each sheet with oil. Then you simply shape the dough into a “nest” by scrunching in the dough on the edges. When you’re done, the floor of the nest should be about 3 inches in diameter, the edges about 1 1/2-inches high. The formula for how to shape it? There is none. All scrunching is good.
So phew! that was the only hard part of the recipe. Now just line the floor of the nest with a slice of prosciutto, sprinkle in some grated cheese and a spoonful of pesto, and top it with a raw egg. The prosciutto, cheese and pesto combine to prevent the egg from leaking through the bottom of the pastry. (Try to find a refrigerated pesto, which tends to be greener and fresher than the ones from the shelf.) Done! In about 30 minutes flat, you’ve prepared a very elegant and delicious entree. Your guests will be delighted.
BAKED EGGS IN PHYLLO NEST
Start to finish: 30 minutes
2 1/2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
4 sheets phyllo pastry
4 thin slices prosciutto (about 3 ounces total)
1/2 cup coarsely grated unsalted mozzarella cheese
1/4 cup pesto
4 large eggs
Preheat the oven to 400 F.
Lightly brush the work surface with some of the oil. Arrange one sheet of phyllo on the counter with the long edge facing you; cover the remainder with plastic wrap and a damp towel to prevent drying out. Brush the sheet all over with some of the oil. Gather the edges in to form a 4-inch wide nest, keeping the centre flat. Using a large metal spatula transfer the nest to a parchment paper-lined rimmed baking sheet. Repeat with remaining phyllo and oil to make 3 more nests.
Ease a slice of prosciutto into the centre of each nest, folding it over to fit into the space and letting the edges curve up a bit to form more of a nest. Sprinkle 2 tablespoons of the cheese on top, spreading the cheese out to form an indentation in the middle. Spoon the pesto over the cheese and crack 1 egg into centre of each nest.
Bake on a shelf in the lower third of the oven until the whites are set but the yolks are still runny and the phyllo is golden and crisp, about 8 minutes. Remove from the oven and let stand 3 minutes before serving.