Chicken B’stilla

I’m going through a bit of a Moroccan craze at the moment.  It’s beginning to permeate all facets of my life from apartment furnishings to my website, my wardrobe, and of course, my taste buds. I think that’s why I was so excited when I discovered Chicken B’stilla, a Moroccan sort of chicken pot pie made with phyllo dough, copious quantities of spices and, believe it or not, even some powdered sugar.

As always, I found it completely impossible to follow any one recipe and after reading any and all versions I could get my hands on I heavily adapted from the Bon Appetit recipe.

INGREDIENTS

FILLING

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1/8 teaspoon crumbled saffron threads
  • 1 tablespoon all purpose flour
  • 2 cups low-salt chicken broth
  • 1 1/2 pounds skinless boneless chicken thighs
  • 1/3 cup chopped golden raisins
  • 4 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro

PHYLLO

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

For the 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. I added at least twice the amounts of seasoning as the Bon Appetit recipe and so doubled the amounts here, but definitely taste throughout cooking and season to your liking. I’m a huge proponent of “over-seasoning” but then I think i’ve only thought something was over seasoned maybe once in my life.  Sprinkle flour over; stir 1 minute. Add broth; 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, about 20 minutes. Stir in raisins. Set skillet aside until chicken is cool enough to handle.

Transfer chicken to plate and continue to let the sauce simmer down while you coarsely shred the chicken. Return the shredded chicken to the skillet or remove both to a mixing bowl as I did to let sit. The sauce should thickly coat the chicken, if you think it’s a bit thin it probably is, so cook it down a bit more before adding the chicken. Season to taste with salt and pepper and let the filling cool completely. Let sit for several hours or overnight. I tend to cook on weeknights when I have to spread long projects over more than one night.  I think this really worked in my favor this time, the chicken marinates in the sauce and gets lovely and moist.  When you’re ready to bake, add the cilantro and take one last opportunity to taste for seasoning before tossing in the oven.

When you are ready to assemble and bake:

Preheat oven to 375°F.

Finely grind almonds, powdered sugar, 1/2 teaspoon coarse salt, and cinnamon in mini processor.

Brush same pie dish with melted butter. Place 1 phyllo sheet on work surface; brush with butter and sprinkle with about a tablespoon of almond mix. Top with another phyllo sheet, brush with butter and sprinkle again.

Now this is where a little creativity comes into play.  My run-of-the-mill phyllo sheets from Albertsons were skinnier than the diameter of my dish, instead of trying to cut rounds I rotated each sheet about 30 degrees from the last and then added a sixth sheet just for good measure. The bottom worked out fine but this will come back into play for the top crust. Repeat stacking with 3 more phyllo rounds, butter, and almonds. (if you’re a big crust fan, maybe continue with 8-10 sheets on the bottom because the moister from the filling will all but liquify your carefully constructed bottom crust. of course ration your almond mixture accordingly).

Now spoon filling evenly over the crust. The top crust is easier to assemble on your work surface so lay 1 phyllo sheet down flat, brush with butter and sprinkle with about 1 tablespoon almonds….you know the drill. When you’ve layered dough, butter, almonds up four times, lay the last sheet of dough on top and transfer the whole stack to the top of the pie. Ok now for that creative rotation. If your phyllo sheets are still rectangular you will have lots of corners hanging off the edge. While I think this is a very attractive, rustic look, your phyllo edges will burn to a crisp long before your pie is done so tuck, or ‘crinkle’ the edges if you, like me, prefer the rustic pie aesthetic and top with a dash more butter. Cut 4 slits through top phyllo stack so steam can escape.

Bake uncovered until phyllo is golden and filling is heated through, about 40 minutes. Cool about 15 minutes or until you can’t stand smelling and not eating any more. any extra cilantro or powdered sugar make for excellent garnishes, but really, just a very simple, light salad of leafy greens and oil and vinegar dressing is all you need to make this a fabulous meal.

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