Monday, June 29, 2015

Savory chicken apricot pie

There is a restaurant in Madison, Wisconsin, called "Mediterranean Cafe" aka MedCaf and they have perfected how to do 'fast food' right. They make huge batches of homecooked food, and have such quick turnover that it's always really fresh. Every day they have 4 specials, in addition to some standby items that are always available - it's hugely popular, and at lunch time there's often a bit of a line out the door.

One of my favorite dishes that they had, which was a special and so only available certain days, was a chicken apricot pie. I don't think this is an authentic dish in any particular country, but represents the kind of fusiony approach that make MedCaf so popular. This is the recipe from my third time making it, since the first couple just didn't come close enough to what I remember.

This recipe requires one unusual ingredient, "Qamar ad-din" paste. It's basically unsweetened apricot fruit leather that is normally used to produce a beverage during Ramadan. You can buy it at most Middle Eastern markets year round. Here's a picture of one brand of it:


  • 250 grams qamar addin
  • 3 cups water
  •  2 large chicken breasts, or 3 small
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 8 allspice berries
  • 10 peppercorns
  • 2 cloves
  •  1 stick butter
  • 1/3 c. flour
  • 2 c. milk
  • 4 egg yolks, beaten
  • Pinch nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp. allspice
  • 1/4 tsp. cinnamon


The night before making this, roughly chop the qamar addin into chunks, then soak in the water. You're hoping to create a fairly viscous liquid that is pourable but won't slosh around, a bit like a pie filling or something. Check how things are going in the morning, you may need to add a little bit more water, and it helps to shake the container a little bit. If by cooking time there are still chunks or it is too watery, you can cook it on the stove until everything is dissolved and it reaches the correct consistency. 

Boil the chicken breasts with the spices (cinnamon, garlic, allspice, pepper, cloves) until cooked. Remove, let cool, shred chicken. Retain some liquid.

Grease a brownie pan (9x9 or 9x13), preheat oven to 400, put the shredded chicken in the pan, pour the apricot over it, and then begin preparing the bechamel sauce as follows: Melt the butter in a saucepan, then add the flour, whisking it in vigorously to ensure it's fully mixed. Cook the roux until it is just barely starting to brown.Very slowly add the milk, mixing continuously with a whisk. Add the spices. Simmer and stir on low heat until the sauce is beginning to thicken. Remove from heat, whisk in eggs, pour over everything in the brownie pan. Bake at 400 until the top is browned, about 30-40 minutes. 

I recommend serving this with rice, cooked with a pinch of saffron and 1 tsp of turmeric, and a green side salad. The rice helps cut down on the richness of it.  

I don't have any pictures of it since we tucked right in. Maybe next time!

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