Spiced chicken and a layer of almonds, cinnamon, and sugar give our Moroccan pie its trademark sweet-savory contrast.
SERVES 10 to 12
WHY THIS RECIPE WORKS B’stilla is an impressive Moroccan tart whose savory filling is customarily made with pigeon and richly flavored with almonds and cinnamon sugar. The most cherished qualities of this dish are its many contrasts: crisp yet juicy, sweet yet savory, succulent yet wholesome. For a version that could be made in an American kitchen, we started by swapping the pigeon for chicken thighs, which we cooked gently in a spiced broth to ensure that they were moist and flavorful. We also used the rich cooking liquid as the base of the traditional custardlike component of the pie. Although b’stilla is usually made with layers of a paper-thin dough called warqa , we found that readily available phyllo worked perfectly. We decided to assemble the pie in the same skillet we had used to cook the chicken, since this created a wide, thin pie that was easy to serve. We lined the pan with phyllo, poured in the chicken-egg mixture, and topped it with more phyllo as well as a traditional mixture of slivered almonds tossed with cinnamon and sugar. The pie tasted great, but the nut topping was too dry and loose. Instead, we encased the almond mixture in phyllo to make the base of the pie; that way, it could soak up the rich juices from the chicken above it. A customary sprinkling of cinnamon sugar on the baked pie drove home the sweet-savory contrasts. Phyllo dough is also available in larger 18 by 14-inch sheets; if using, cut them in half to make 14 by 9-inch sheets. Do not thaw the phyllo in the microwave; let it sit in the refrigerator overnight or on the counter for 4 to 5 hours. While working with the phyllo, cover the sheets with plastic wrap, then a damp dish towel to prevent drying.
½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 onion, chopped fine
¾ teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
½ teaspoon pepper
½ teaspoon ground turmeric
½ teaspoon paprika
1½ cups water
2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs, trimmed
6 large eggs
½ cup minced fresh cilantro
1 pound (14 by 9-inch) phyllo, thawed
1½ cups slivered almonds, toasted and chopped
¼ cup confectioners’ sugar
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium heat until shimmering. Add onion and salt and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Stir in ginger, pepper, turmeric, and paprika and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add water and chicken and bring to simmer. Reduce heat to low, cover, and cook until chicken registers 175 degrees, 15 to 20 minutes. Transfer chicken to cutting board, let cool slightly, then shred into bite-size pieces using 2 forks; transfer to large bowl.
2. Whisk eggs together in small bowl. Bring cooking liquid to boil over high heat and cook until reduced to about 1 cup, about 10 minutes. Reduce heat to low. Whisking constantly, slowly pour eggs into broth and cook until mixture resembles loose scrambled eggs, 6 to 8 minutes; transfer to bowl with chicken. Stir in cilantro until combined. Wipe skillet clean with paper towels and let cool completely.
3. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 375 degrees. Brush 1 phyllo sheet with oil and arrange in bottom of cooled skillet with short side against side of pan. Some phyllo will overhang edge of skillet; leave in place. Turn skillet 30 degrees. Brush second phyllo sheet with oil and arrange in skillet, leaving any overhanging phyllo in place. Repeat turning and layering with 10 more phyllo sheets in pinwheel pattern, brushing each with oil, to cover entire circumference of skillet (you should have total of 12 layers of phyllo).
4. Combine almonds, 3 tablespoons sugar, and 2 teaspoons cinnamon and sprinkle over phyllo in skillet. Lay 2 phyllo sheets evenly across top of almond mixture and brush top with oil. Rotate skillet 90 degrees and lay 2 more phyllo sheets evenly across top; do not brush with oil. Spoon chicken mixture into skillet and spread into even layer.
5. Stack 5 phyllo sheets on counter and brush top with oil. Fold phyllo in half crosswise and brush top with oil. Lay phyllo stack on center of chicken mixture.
6. Fold overhanging phyllo over filling and phyllo stack, pleating phyllo every 2 to 3 inches, and press to seal. Brush top with oil and bake until phyllo is crisp and golden, 35 to 40 minutes.
7. Combine remaining 1 tablespoon sugar and remaining 1 teaspoon cinnamon in small bowl. Let b’stilla cool in skillet for 15 minutes. Using rubber spatula, carefully slide b’stilla out onto cutting board. Dust top with cinnamon sugar, slice, and serve.
Assembling Chicken B’stilla
1.Brush 1 phyllo sheet with oil and arrange in bottom of skillet with short side against side of pan. Continue layering 11 more phyllo sheets in skillet in pinwheel pattern.
2.Sprinkle almond mixture over phyllo in skillet, then lay 2 phyllo sheets across top and brush with oil. Rotate skillet 90 degrees and lay 2 more phyllo sheets across top.
3.Spoon chicken mixture into skillet and spread into even layer. Stack 5 phyllo sheets and brush with oil. Fold in half, brush top with oil, and lay on chicken mixture.
4.Fold overhanging phyllo over filling and phyllo stack, pleating phyllo every 2 to 3 inches, and press to seal. Brush top with oil before baking.