Mixing Business And Pleasure

April 17, 1994|By Marlene Sorosky | Marlene Sorosky,Special to The Sun

More and more, the line between our personal and business lives is narrowing. Today a dinner party in your home might well be a business-based affair where you're entertaining associates from the company you work for. Business or personal, you want the occasion to be a knockout. The trick is to pull it off without knocking yourself out.

One of my favorite company dinners is poisson en croute -- or fillets in phyllo -- consisting of two kinds of fish in a golden pastry case.

Phyllo has taken a bad rap in times past. Otherwise adventurous cooks still shy away from it: It's difficult to find and tricky to work with and dripping with buttery fat, they lament.

Now, lovers of the rich and fabulous can take heart. With phyllo available at most supermarkets and non-stick cooking spray used in place of butter, phyllo-wrapped entrees are not only easy to make, but a deliciously low fat-choice for a company dinner.

However, every now and then you may get a package that is difficult to work with. Sometimes, after they're frozen, the leaves become dry and brittle and impossible to separate. Don't even try -- just buy another package. Or better yet, purchase fresh phyllo that hasn't been frozen from an Italian or Middle Eastern deli. It will stay fresh in the refrigerator for up to one week.

Once the fish is wrapped in sheets of the paper-thin pastry, it makes an easy entree. You just pop it into the oven while guests are nibbling hors d'oeuvres. This is the kind of entree that allows you to be relaxed enough to feel like a guest at your own party.

The only concern in baking fish in phyllo is the same as with all fish recipes: Don't overcook. Remember, food goes on cooking after it's removed from the oven.

With an entree wrapped in pastry as the star of this dinner, you'll want to keep the supporting cast light. The relish-filled plum tomatoes are more than a side dish -- they enhance the sun-dried tomatoes in the fish filling and embellish it. Rice-shaped pasta called orzo is a refreshing departure from the usual forms of pasta. It takes very well to being coated with a vivid uncooked broccoli pesto, then studded with bright green steamed florets. I like to serve something light and lemony for dessert with this menu.

The recipes given serve six, but each can be doubled. Whether you're entertaining just the boss or a whole contingent of executives or co-workers from the home office, everyone is sure to be impressed with your on-the job performance in presenting a dinner this exceptional.

Fillets of salmon and sole in phyllo

Preparation Time: Fish -- 45 minutes. Bake time: 22 to 28 minutes. Advance Preparation: Fish wrapped in phyllo may be refrigerated overnight..

Makes 6 servings.

18 ounces fillets of sole or flounder, about 1/2 to 3/4 -inch thick

salt

12 ounces salmon fillets, about 3/8 -inch at thickest part, skinned,

12 tablespoons dried bread crumbs

6 sheets phyllo dough, at room temperature

no-stick cooking spray

fresh tarragon or parsley stems for garnish, optional

SUN-DRIED TOMATO FILLING:

12 sun-dried tomatoes

2 tablespoons regular or light sour cream

4 tablespoons regular, light or fat-free mayonnaise

1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice

1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon Madeira wine

1 teaspoon dry mustard

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

1 teaspoon dried tarragon

TO PREPARE FILLING: Rehydrate tomatoes by placing in a 1-cupglass measure. Cover with water and microwave uncovered on high (100%) for 2 to 3 minutes or until very soft. Cool slightly, remove to cutting board and chop into small pieces. Meanwhile, in a small bowl, stir together sour cream, mayonnaise, lemon juice, Madeira, mustards and tarragon. Stir in tomatoes. (Filling may be refrigerated up to 3 days.)

TO PREPARE FISH: Rinse fish and pat dry. Place half the sole fillets on a work surface to make 6 equal portions, cutting and patching them if necessary. Sprinkle with salt and spread each with 2 heaping teaspoons sauce. Measure thickness of salmon fillets; if thicker than 3/8 -inch, cover with waxed paper and pound very lightly. Do not be concerned if parts are slightly thinner. Arrange salmon fillets over the sole, cutting to fit. Sprinkle with salt and spread with remaining sauce. Top with remaining sole.

TO WRAP IN PHYLLO: Place 2 sheets of phyllo on work surface. Keep remainder covered so it doesn't dry out. Spray one sheet with no stick spray. Sprinkle with 2 tablespoons bread crumbs. Top with second sheet and spray. Cut in half crosswise. Sprinkle 1 tablespoon bread crumbs over each half, leaving a 1-inch border. Place a fish packet in the center, fold one short end over, fold in sides and fold up remaining end like a wrapped package. Spray top and sides. Place seam side down on greased baking sheet at least 2 inches apart. (Do not crowd or they will steam instead of brown). Repeat with remaining fish. (Fish may be refrigerated overnight covered with plastic wrap.)

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