Moroccan Bastilla

My wife and I occasionally go to a Moroccan restaurant called Marrakesh. They have a traditional Moroccan appetizer called Bastilla (pronounced buh-STEE-ya) that is wonderful. It has sugar, cinnamon, almonds, chicken, spices and it’s all wrapped up in phyllo. A few weeks ago I thought about it and wondered if I could make it at home. I searched Google for a recipe and found one by Chef Daniel Avurto of Mamounia. I’ve made this recipe twice now and each time it tasted exactly the same way it did at the Marrakesh.

This recipe is for one bastilla that serves about eight as an appetizer (so long as you can keep everyone from taking seconds). To make two, just boil the whole chicken instead of half  and use twice as many eggs (no need to double the vegetables and spices in the pot with it). You can split up the labor and cook the chicken the day before if you like.

Ingredients

Chicken filling:

  • ½ chicken
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • ½ teaspoon ginger
  • ½ teaspoon turmeric
  • ½ teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 whole cinnamon stick
  • 1 cup chopped cilantro
  • 6 large eggs

Almond filling:

  • 8 ounces (230 grams) slivered almonds (if using sliced almonds, crush them)
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons cinnamon

Pastry crust:

  • 1 box frozen phyllo pastry dough (in your supermarket freezer section)
  • ¼ cup melted butter
  • Confectioners sugar

Recipe

Chicken filling:

  1. Put enough water in a large pot to cover the chicken.
  2. Add the onion, ginger, turmeric, black pepper, cinnamon stick and cilantro.
  3. Bring water to boiling over high heat, add chicken and cook for 30 minutes.
  4. Take the chicken out of the stock and set aside to cool. Reserve 1/3 cup of the stock.
  5. When cool remove skin, bone and cut the chicken into bite sized pieces.
  6. Whisk the eggs with the reserved stock.
  7. Heat a large non-stick skillet over medium heat. When hot, add the egg mixture and soft-scramble the eggs.
  8. Combine the chicken pieces and egg mixture in a large bowl.

Almond filling:

  1. Process sugar and cinnamon in a food processor until combined.
  2. Put almonds in a bowl, add sugar mixture and mix together.

Pastry crust and final assembly:

  1. Preheat oven to 350°.
  2. Thaw phyllo dough according to package directions (but do not remove from storage bag). Note: Each piece of phyllo dough is paper thin and must be handled quickly and carefully so it doesn’t dry out until it is in place. If you need to leave the dough for more than a few moments, cover with a damp towel to ensure it doesn’t dry out.
  3. Remove and unroll the thawed phyllo dough from the storage bag. If you need to leave the unrolled dough for more than a few moments, cover with a damp towel to ensure it doesn’t dry out.
  4. Brush melted butter on the bottom and sides of a 9 inch (23 centimeter) oven-proof skillet.
  5. Cover bottom and sides of skillet with phyllo dough making sure the dough covers and overlaps in the bottom of the pan and goes over and outside the side.
  6. Carefully spread 1/3 cup of the almond filling over the dough in the skillet.
  7. Spread the entire chicken mixture on top of the almond filling.
  8. Top with the rest of the almond filling.
  9. Fold the excess dough over the filing and add more phyllo dough as needed to ensure the top is completely covered. Tuck any excess dough into the inside side of the skillet so the filling is completely encased.
  10. Bake Bastilla for 15 – 30 minutes or until lightly browned.
  11. Place serving plate upside down on top of skillet and invert skillet.
  12. Put confectioners sugar in a sieve and sift a layer of sugar to completely cover the bastilla.
  13. Cut into pieces and serve immediately or for an authentic service break the bastilla open with your fingers, let it cool a bit and let everyone pull off pieces onto a plate and eat with your hands.
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