Baked halibut on phyllo with parm topping was inspired by a bakery’s offering in Anchorage, Alaska. (Photo by Tom McCorkle for The Washington Post)

Baked halibut on phyllo with parm topping was inspired by a bakery’s offering in Anchorage, Alaska. (Photo by Tom McCorkle for The Washington Post)

Parmesan-crusted halibut on phyllo sounds rich but eats light

Baked halibut on phyllo with parm topping was inspired by a bakery’s offering in Anchorage, Alaska.

This is the kind of dish I dream about: A hunk of tender, white fish sitting on a cloud of golden-brown, crisp flakiness. Bits of sweet onions are tucked under the fish, while on top, a luxuriously creamy Parmesan spread keeps the seafood optimally moist and forms a light crust in the oven. The finishing flourish is a crown of fresh baby greens. 

The man who came up with the idea is Carlyle Watt, head baker of Fire Island Rustic Bakeshop in Anchorage, Alaska. Watt says he is “always looking to marry the baking and savory worlds together,” so he came up with a pastry version of a generations-old Alaskan staple casserole, Halibut Olympia.

The classic dish — which has layers of buttered onions, halibut fillets, a mayonnaise-based topping and a crust of crushed crackers — he explained, took hold as practical way to enjoy the bounty of local fish using pantry ingredients at a time when fresh ingredients could be scarce.

In the version he created, which won me over at first bite, he nixed the crackers and the casserole dish and layered the ingredients in individual portions atop diamonds of puffed pastry dough, garnishing each, elegantly, with microgreens.

As I devoured the one he served to me, I couldn’t help but think about how I might make a lighter, more healthful version. So I hit the kitchen, and this wonderful recipe is the result. Here, the golden pastry is phyllo brushed with olive oil, and the creamy Parmesan topping is yogurt-based, with just a touch of mayo for richness. It hits all the right notes for a meal that is just as dreamy for its healthfulness as it is for its glorious flavor and presentation.

Baked halibut on phyllo with parm topping

Make ahead: The dish may be made up until the baking point, and refrigerated, covered, for up to 12 hours.

8 full sheets (14-by-18-inch) or 16 half sheet (9-by-14-inch) of phyllo dough (202 grams)

¼ cup plus 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

¼ cup finely diced sweet onion

¼ cup plain low-fat Greek yogurt

¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese (¾ ounce)

2 tablespoons mayonnaise

1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice

1 teaspoon finely minced garlic

½ teaspoon Dijon mustard

¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

⅛ teaspoon kosher salt

4 (4-5 ounces each) center-cut pieces of skinless halibut fillet, or salmon or cod fillet

1 cup micro greens or baby arugula

Place a sheet of phyllo on a large cutting board and brush it lightly with the oil. (Cover the remaining stack of phyllo with damp paper towels while building the layers, so it doesn’t dry out.) Top the oiled sheet of phyllo with a second sheet and brush that one with the oil, and repeat until you have a stack of 8 sheets. (It’s OK if the dough tears a bit.)

If using full sheets of dough, cut the oiled stack into four 7-by-7-inch squares, discarding any trimmings. If using half sheets, cut the stack into two 7-by-7-inch squares, and repeat with another 8 sheets of dough, so you wind up with four squares. You’ll use ¼ cup of olive oil in total.

Fold the corners of each square in toward its center to meet, creating smaller squares, and place the phyllo squares folded side up on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet. Cover the baking sheet with plastic wrap.

Toss the onion in a small bowl with 1 tablespoon of olive oil. In a medium mixing bowl, stir together the yogurt, Parm, mayonnaise, lemon juice, garlic, mustard and ⅛ teaspoon of the pepper until thoroughly combined.

Spoon about 1 tablespoon of the onions onto the center of each dough square. Place a piece of the fish on top of each mound of onions. Season the fish with the remaining ⅛ teaspoon of pepper and the salt. Spoon the yogurt mixture on top of each piece of fish to cover.

When ready to cook, preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Bake 15 to 18 minutes, until the phyllo is golden brown and crisped and the fish is just cooked through. (If baking the fish from the refrigerator, adjust the cooking time accordingly.)

Divide the phyllo pieces among 4 plates, top with the greens and serve.

Makes 4 servings. Nutrition per serving: 470 calories, 32 grams protein, 34 grams carbohydrates, 23 grams fat, 4 grams saturated fat, 40 milligrams cholesterol, 350 milligrams sodium, 2 grams dietary fiber, 3 grams sugar.

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