Sunday, March 16, 2014

Magical Chicken B'stilla {Old Friends Dinner}

Years ago I made a Seafood B'stilla and my friends have been harassing me to make it again. Well, one friend in particular. Just when I thought I would finally make it again, I mentioned it to him as a possibility for another friend's birthday menu. He wasn't able to make the party and just about forbade me from making it without him there. Fine. So, I did a chicken version. I did not break my promise to include him next time we had 'seafood pie.'

Chicken B'stilla is a Moroccan chicken pie. Crisp phyllo dough wrapped around savory saffron chicken, a spicy omelet stuffing, and ground nuts sweetened and flavored with citrus. A garnish of powdered sugar and cinnamon adds to the exotic blend of flavors. It takes some effort, but it's well worth it!

Ingredients makes one 11" b'stilla

Saffron Chicken
2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs
2 large sweet onions, peeled and chopped
1 T ground ginger
2 t freshly ground sea salt
1 t freshly ground pepper
1 t ground turmeric
1 t saffron threads
1 T ground cinnamon
1/4 C butter
1/4 C olive oil

Spicy Omelet
1/4 C chopped fresh cilantro
8 eggs, beaten

Sweetened Nuts
2 C ground cashews (traditionally, it's made with almonds; I had cashews)
1/2 C powdered sugar
1 T lemon extract
2 T butter, softened

To Assemble
1 package phyllo dough, thawed according to package
1/2 C butter, melted
more chopped fresh cilantro

To Garnish
1/2 C organic powdered sugar
2 or 3 T ground cinnamon


Saffron Chicken
Mix the chicken with onion, spices, butter and oil in a large flat-bottom pan that has a tight-fitting lid. Cover, and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, for about 90 minutes. Do not add water, and take care not to burn the chicken or the sauce.

Remove the cooked chicken to another dish, but leave the sauce in the pan. Bring the sauce to a boil and reduce until most of the liquids have evaporated. Stir occasionally, adjusting heat as necessary, to prevent burning.

Spicy Omelet
Add the beaten eggs to the reduced sauce and scramble. Cook till the eggs are set. Set the omelet aside.

Sweetened Nuts
Put all of the ingredients in a mixing bowl, and with a  pastry cutter, work in the powdered sugar, lemon extract, and butter. Set aside.

Assemble the B'stilla
I actually have never seen anyone really make b'stilla. So this is my own version...and it's been a hit the two times I've made it. Melt butter in a saucepan and keep it liquid. Slice up your chicken into bite-sized pieces or strips.

Generously oil a large round baking dish; as I mentioned up top, I used a 11" deep dish baker. If you don't have a round pan, work on an oiled flat baking sheet and shape a circular pie as best you can.

Overlap three or four single layers of phyllo dough, rotating as you lay them in the pan so that the excess dough hanging over the edge of the pan is evenly distributed around the circle. Butter each layer of dough as you go. This forms the bottom of the b'stilla. For my first layer, I spooned in the sweetened nut mixture.

Lay your chicken pieces over the nuts and sprinkle with fresh cilantro.

Lay two more layers of phyllo dough over the chicken, buttering each piece. Top that with a layer of spicy egg omelet.

Lay two more layers of phyllo dough over the egg, buttering each piece. Repeat till your pan is full - or you run out of filling. I ended up with two layers of each filling - nuts, chicken, and egg.

Fold the excess dough up and over your last layer to enclose the pie. Flatten the top and smooth out any bulky areas.

Brush butter on the folded edges of dough, and top with three more overlapping layers of phyllo, brushing butter on each layer as you go. Carefully tuck them underneath the pie, creating a flat top for the b'stilla. It's ready for baking.

Bake the B'stilla
Preheat the oven to 350° F. Bake for 40-45 minute until crisped and golden brown.

To serve, invert the b'stilla on your serving platter. Slice and serve with a side garnish of powdered sugar and ground cinnamon.

The verdict: the crisped phyllo, savory filling, and sweet topping were magical! At least that's what D said. I'll take it. It's not everyday my dinner is called magical.

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