Monday, August 17, 2009

Bastilla بسطيلة

Bastilla or Pastilla (pronounced "ba-still-a" in Arabic) is sort of the national dish of Morocco. It's a sweet-savory pastry - some people are put off by the idea of powdered sugar on a savory pastry, but it's much much more delicious than it sounds.

This is a complicated recipe, but it's good if you want something fancy for a party that's sure to impress.

One thing that you MUST remember is to thaw the phyllo dough before you do this. There should be instructions on how to do so on the package. We had some success using a short trip to the nuke, but it's better to think ahead.


Phyllo dough
1 small chicken (4# or so)
5 medium onions, diced
Butter, melted for the phyllo dough.
Dried Safflower for color (or a small amount of turmeric)
1 bunch parsley, minced (I recommend a food processor for that)
8 eggs (+ 1 yolk)
1# blanched peeled almonds
Lots of powdered sugar
Rosewater (optional if you really don't like it - you can use orange blossom water also)

1. Sautee onions in oil for a little while, then add 1/2 tsp black pepper, 1/2 tsp cinnamon, salt, small amount of coloring agent (safflower or turmeric), and a pinch of saffron. Stir, then add the chicken, and brown it a bit. Five minutes before your done cooking the onions, add the parsley. Add enough water to cook the chicken, but you're going to have to cooking it away, so err on the side of too little water. Cover chicken and cook on low for about 30 minutes or so, until the flesh comes away from the bone easily.

This turned out to be about the right amount of liquid, though it still took a while for it to reduce in the next step:

2. Remove the chicken from the broth, and allow to cool so you can strip off the meet later. Leave the broth on a low flame, and crack in the 8 eggs. You do not need to beat them first- just slowly move them around in the broth, so there are white and yellow chunks as they cook. Now you are going to reduce the broth-egg mixture until it is more or less dry.

Here it is halfway through the reducing process:

And at the end:

Set the mixture aside.

3. Fry the almonds in oil in batches, until nicely browned. If you over-brown one batch, under-brown the next one so it evens out. The almonds in this picture may be a bit too browned, but the batch that's hiding under them is a bit whiter:

Once they have cooled, stick them in a food processor with 1-1.5 c. of sugar (we are not sure how to translate the kinds of sugar, so we used powdered sugar, but normal sugar is probably fine) and 1-2 Tbsp. of rose-water (it sounds like a lot, but it's not too overpowering)

4. If you haven't done so yet, pick the chicken clean and shred the meat. Pour 1-2 Tbsp of the oil from the almonds into the chicken meat.

5. You are now ready to assemble the pie. Get the phyllo dough out, and put one sheet, folded over, into the bottom of a pie pan. Baste with melted butter. Put four more sheets, also folded over, so that they go over the sides but overlap in the center. Baste all with melted butter.

Put the onion-egg mixture down first in a layer, then the chicken, then most of the almond mixture (reserve some if you like for the top), so you have three distinct layers.

Here's the onion-egg layer, and you can see the phyllo configuration. It might have been a thicker variety, so maybe I didn't need to double fold the sheets, but it's up to you:

Once you have added all the layers, fold in the phyllo dough and baste with butter. Add another piece of phyllo to cover and make everything pretty. Tuck it into the sides. Baste the top with butter and an egg yolk.

Bake at 350 until the top is browned (around 30 minutes)

When you remove it from the oven, it'll look like this:

It is traditional to spread about 2 Tbsp honey on the top, then decorate it with powdered sugar and cinnamon and some of the nuts. This was my attempt to show some school spirit with a longhorn pattern (rather indistinct):

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