Remember Nancy Mehagian, author of the riotous culinary memoir Siren’s Feast and the inspiration for our wonderful Armenian feast/book group (the recipes are at the end of this post)? Well, Nancy and I have become friends, and Bruce and I went to a wonderful party at her house this past summer in honor of Bastille Day. Nancy made a huge pot of steamed mussels plus several of her Armenian family recipes, Cheese Beorag among them. Suffice it to say, we each helped ourselves to multiple servings (and this, despite being in LA where almost nobody eats, let alone pigs out, in public!). It’s the Armenian version of Greek Spanikopita, but—and we all agreed at the U-C Dinner–better. Parsley stands in for spinach and the mix of feta and jack cheeses is…well…perfect with the filo. Fortunately, Nancy loves to cook for a crowd so there were plenty of leftovers, which she generously left for us. We had it for breakfast the morning after, and Emma begged me to pack her a piece for school lunch. We’ll probably have the rest for dinner tonight, and then I’ll probably try making it myself so we can indulge whenever we please.
Serves 12 or more
1 pound filo dough (if dough is frozen, thaw overnight in the refrigerator)
½ cup butter, melted
½ lb. feta cheese (Nancy prefers French or Bulgarian, which are less salty)
½ lb. jack cheese, grated
1 bunch parsley, chopped very finely
½ tsp. black pepper
2 eggs, beaten
1 cup milk
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
In a mixing bowl, crumble feta. Add grated jack cheese. Next add the eggs, parsley and black pepper. Blend well and set aside.
Set up a workspace. Filo dough is paper-thin and dries out when exposed to air so it will be necessary to work quickly. Have enough room on counter for dough, melted butter and baking dish. Nancy uses a clay baking dish approximately 10” x 14” x 2”. Glass and stainless steel are also good. Lay sheets of filo on a piece of wax paper or foil. Place two sheets in the baking dish. Using a pastry brush, brush dough with the melted butter. Continue layering dough in this manner, two sheets at a time, brushing every two sheets with melted butter until half of the dough is used.
Next spread the cheese mixture evenly over the buttered dough. Then continue layering dough and brushing with butter until all the dough is used.
Place baking dish in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour to harden the butter. Using a sharp knife cut the unbaked beorag into serving-sized pieces (about 2-inch squares). Blend milk and egg together and pour over the top so that the liquid meanders down inside the cuts.
Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until pastry rises and turns golden brown. Remove from oven and serve hot.