Where should I begin. I don’t know what this one is. I know how it tastes. Gooooodlicous! Yep. It’s a bit of this and that. Let me break it down. The truth is, I was trying to imitate a Burek, which is a Serbian-Croatian meat pie of sorts. Cafe Pita is a little place near us that serves this delicious dish. It is a mess of buttery flaky delicious mess.
The other bit came from Panamanian empanadas–the meat filling. There’s just something about the seasonings used for our empanadas that is incredibly comforting. You will notice that the filling uses recao verde as a base.
Cafe Pita uses an interesting dough for their burek; one of these days I’ll attempt it. For now, phyllo dough will be the overachiever understudy. And I’ll tell you, it left very little to be desired. Ready? Let’s get to it!
1-1/2 lbs ground beef
1 large yellow onion
1/2 green bell pepper
1/4 cp each: green onions, parsley and cilantro
2 cloves garlic
2 tsps Jugo Maggi or Worcestershire
1/2 tsp oregano flakes
1 tsp habanero paste or 1 tbsp habanero hot sauce
2 tbsp flour
1-1/2 cps beef broth
Sea salt & ground black pepper
Chop all the aromatics: onion, bell pepper, green onions, parsley, cilantro and garlic. You can do this manually or with a food processor. Heat a large skillet over medium high heat and add the beef, breaking it apart into a crumble. Add the Maggi, oregano and a shake of salt and pepper, continue stirring and crumbling the beef. This process will remove all moisture from the ground beef, make sure to continue to stir to keep it from burning and sticking to the pot.
Once the moisture evaporates and all that is left is the fat from the beef, add the chopped recao. Continue stirring until the aromatics soften and the beef begins to brown. Add the habanero paste, once that has been fully incorporated add the flour. Make sure to stir in the flour and cook this for a few minutes to ensure you don’t end up with beef that tastes like flour. Add the broth and adjust the seasoning as necessary. Make sure to scrape all the good bits off the bottom. Allow it to come to a boil, lower the temperature to medium-low, cover and simmer for another 20-30 minutes.
While that cools, prepare the phyllo sheets. Preheat the oven to 400°. Line a baking sheet with silpat or parchment paper and lay the first sheet of phyllo. Brush it with butter, repeat. I laid 3-4 sheets before I started to add the beef filling. Butter in between each sheet. Spread a spoonful of the beef filling, not too much, you’ll be layering this a bit. Try to keep a 1-inch edge that has no filling.
Top with another 3 sheets of phyllo. Repeat. The last layer would be phyllo. Use the silpat/parchment paper to help you fold the sides over, the way you would fold a letter to place in an envelope. Make sure to butter each fold.
Flip it so the seam is at the bottom. Brush the top with butter, sprinkle with salt, pepper and smoked paprika.
Bake for 20 to 30 minutes, depending on your oven. Once it is golden brown and looks flaky, remove it from the oven. Allow it to cool for at least 10 minutes before slicing. That’s it!
I did make a bit of a dipping sauce by combining 1 part mayo to 2 parts crema fresca or sour cream and a bit of habanero hot sauce.