Monday, July 20, 2009

Chicken Bstilla

This turned out way more beautiful than I expected, which is one way of saying it's easier than it looks. We also had a whole team of people putting this dinner together, and some handy tools like a food processor and one of those fast-chopping things from TV infomercials. We made a chicken version and a vegetarian version, but a real Bstilla is made with pigeon (or squab-- believe me, it's the same thing-- but which would you rather order in a restaurant?). For the vegetarian version, we used leftover rice and tofu, and made vegetable stock in place of the stewing liquid. This recipe is adapted from Claudia Roden's excellent The New Book of Middle Eastern Cooking.

inside the veggie bstilla

3lbs boneless skinless chicken thighs
3T oil
2 large onions, finely chopped
1t grated ginger
1/4t powdered saffron (optional)
2t ground cinnamon & more to garnish
6 eggs, lightly beaten
1c chopped flat-leaf parsley
1/2c chopped cilantro
1 1/2c blanched almonds
2T sugar

1/2c oil
14 sheets fillo pastry
powdered sugar to garnish

a slice of the chicken bstilla

Clean chicken and brown in oil. Add spices and onions and cook until onions are translucent. Add water just to cover and simmer about 30 minutes, until chicken is soft. Remove chicken and shred with a fork.

Reduce stewing liquid to 2/3 c. Pour in eggs and whisk gently until mixture is creamy & nearly set. Stir in parsley & cilantro, season with salt and pepper.

Coarsely chop almonds & fry in 1T oil, stirring and shaking pan to brown evenly. Toss with sugar & 1t cinnamon.

Brush a baking dish with oil. Fit a sheet of fillo so ends fold well up the side and overlap the edges (or use overlapping sheets, like we did). Lay 6 sheets on top of each other, brushing between each layer.

Spread chicken over pastry. Pour on egg mixture. Lay another 4 sheets on top, brushing with oil. Sprinkle almonds mixture on top, then bring the overhanging bits up and fold over the almond mixture. Cover with remaining fillo (we had 4 sheets left), brushing with oil (don't brush top layer). Tuck top sheets down inside pan, underneath pie.

veggie bstilla, just out of the oven

Bake in preheated 400 deg oven for 30 min, until top is crisp & golden brown. Turn carefully onto baking sheet & bake 15 min until brown. Serve hot, turned upside down onto platter.

chicken bstilla, decorated

Dust with powdered sugar and make a pattern of criss-crossing parallel lines with cinnamon.

We served it with Fattoush,
an Israeli/Arab-style (chopped veggies) salad
with crispy pieces of pita bread.

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