B’stilla My Heart

In the way of birthdays, it seems the older you get, the less exciting they become. It’s true, no? My last one was pretty cool, what with the mail-order pork and venture to Takashi, but we surely didn’t do anything off the wall, and I prefer it that way. In fact, with a very special birthday on the horizon (whatever 12+18 comes to, as if I’m really being mysterious here), I’m hoping for low key gathering and not the big ol’ surprise party Hubs got last year for his special three decade extravaganza.

And so, after said soiree for Hubs’ big 3-0, he’s now another year older and unfortunately for him, this one is much less exciting. He fenagled a lil’ shindig this past Friday at Piece (which was nice because last year he was a bit saddened by the fact that no one wanted to come out and celebrate with him; those same people were all hiding out at our place for him when we returned after dinner, much to his embarassment and surprise), and we took it easy after that, aside from an impromtu dinner at Xoco Saturday night.

Nonetheless, I felt it only necessary to make one of his favorite dishes, because even if the rest of the day was nothing short of lackluster, at least he’d remember dinner this year, and what’s a birthday if you can’t remember what you ate? Certainly no birthday at all, in my meager opinion.

There really was no question at all in terms of what we’d eat. Since the first and only time I made it, he has incessantly babbled about this Moroccan pie I made almost a year ago, and surely before I started this blogging thing because I have no proof in the way of photos that it even existed, other than his constant reminders of said dish. I mentioned it here once before, when waxing poetic about my love for baklava, despite my fear of making it.

B’stilla. Pastilla. Pigeon pie, or whatever-the-hell-you-want-to-call-it-when-you-decide-to-call-it-something. I prefer the former, because I like words with apostrophes in them and probably because calling this one a pigeon pie would be untrue, since there are no pigeons to be had here. And because the letter ‘p’ ranks 26th in my list of favorite letters of the alphabet.

So, b’stilla it is, or at least a take on it. A delightful composition that’s crunchy on the outside, thanks be to the ground almond and cinnamon-studded buttered phyllo, but contrastingly chewy and rich on the inside. A delicate balance of savory chicken, turmeric, saffron, and herbs interlaced with sweet cinnamon, golden raisins that plump to resemble their former lives as grapes only to pop in your mouth with each and every bite, and exotic ginger to round it all out – somehow. If you’re into that sorta thing, this is what you want for dinner.

If you’re not into that sorta thing, Hubs will surely eat your share. Better yet, he may come to your house and steal your share, beating you over the head all the while, if you don’t like this sorta thing. Heck, even if you do like it – because just like the first time it crossed his lips many moons ago, it left him breathless, heart thudding crazily against his chest. A birthday he’ll remember, if only for the Moroccan pie.

Moroccan Chicken Pie
adapted from Bon Appetit, March 2009; serves 6 (or 4 if it’s your very favorite)

printable recipe

despite the multiple steps, this dish is definitely worth the fuss. The best part, other than delighting your guest, of course, is that you can prepare this well in advance. the filling is best made a day to two in advance so the flavors have time to merry together. the whole dish? you can put it together earlier in the afternoon and whip that thing into the oven without a snag.

2 T olive oil
1 lg onion, chopped
1 t ground cinnamon
1 t ground ginger
1/2 t turmeric
1/8 t crumbled saffron threads
1 T all purpose flour
2 c low-salt chicken broth (I used homemade turkey stock)
1 1/2 lbs skinless boneless chicken thighs
1/4 c chopped golden raisins
2 T chopped fresh cilantro
2 T chopped fresh Italian parsley

1/2 c slivered almonds
3 T powdered sugar
1/2 t coarse kosher salt
1/4 t ground cinnamon
10 sheets (about 17×12 inches) fresh phyllo pastry or frozen, thawed
1/2 c (about) unsalted butter, melted (for brushing)

For filling:
Heat oil in heavy large skillet over medium heat. Add onion and sauté until tender, about 10 minutes. Mix in cinnamon, ginger, turmeric, and saffron; stir 1 minute. Sprinkle flour over; stir 1 minute. Add broth/stock; bring to simmer. Sprinkle chicken with salt; add to broth mixture. Gently simmer chicken uncovered until cooked through, reducing heat if necessary to prevent boiling, at least 20 minutes. Stir in raisins. Set skillet aside until chicken is cool enough to handle.

Transfer chicken to plate. Shred chicken coarsely (or chop into small pieces) and return to skillet. If sauce is thin, simmer over medium heat until sauce coats chicken thickly. Stir in cilantro and parsley. Season filling with salt and pepper. Cool filling completely. Cover and chill.

For phyllo:
Finely grind almonds, powdered sugar, 1/2 t coarse salt, and cinnamon in mini processor.

Stack 10 phyllo sheets on work surface. Invert 9-inch glass pie dish onto stack. Cut around dish through phyllo, making ten 10-inch rounds. Remove dish. Cover rounds with plastic wrap and damp kitchen towel.

Brush same pie dish with melted butter. Brush top phyllo round with butter, place in buttered pie dish and sprinkle with scant 1 tablespoon almonds. Top with another buttered phyllo round and sprinkle with scant 1 tablespoon almonds. Repeat stacking with 3 more buttered phyllo rounds and almonds. Spoon filling evenly over 5 phyllo rounds. Repeat procedure with 4 more rounds and almonds. Top with remaining phyllo round. Tuck in edges. Drizzle more butter over top. Cut 4 slits through top phyllo stack to allow steam to escape.

Preheat oven to 375°F. Place pie on rimmed baking sheet. Bake uncovered until phyllo is golden and filling is heated through, about 40 minutes. Cool 15 minutes. Cut into wedges.

9 thoughts on “B’stilla My Heart

  1. Jenn S. says:

    Wow, Heather, this looks amazing! I can see why Hubs has been clamoring for a re-run on this one. YUM. I’ve never been a meat pie kind of girl, but I could definitely get behind this one, and I think it would be almost as delicious with a regular gluten-free pastry crust.

  2. Katherine K says:

    I love your blog! I read back several pages after the Piece evening. And I, too, have favorite and least-favorite letters of the alphabet… funny.

    • – Jenn – thanks! I’m sure this would be absolutely awesome with a g-free pie crust. it’s really the filling that hits the spot, and the almond/cinnamon mixture could be incorporated into the crust for that flavor.

      – Katherine – thanks! and good to know someone has that ‘weird’ trait too 🙂
      – Breck – thanks as well, and glad to have ya!

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