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Moroccan Chicken in Pastry: Pastilla #1 - meat

Posted by : Lita Lotzkar

For the chicken:
4-5 lbs meaty chicken pieces, skin removed
2 medium onions, grated
1 cup chopped fresh parsley
1 tablespoon chopped fresh cilantro
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon black pepper, pref. freshly ground
1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups cold water

For the filling:
8 large eggs, well beaten
2 cups (about 10 oz.) blanched almonds, toasted 
  and finely ground
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

For assembling and topping:
approximately 1/2 cup unsalted pareve margarine, melted
10 large sheets phyllo dough
confectioner's sugar
ground cinnamon

Put the chicken pieces into a 4-quart pot.  Add the other 
ingredients on the chicken list to the pot. Cover and 
bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer until tender, approx.
1 1/4 hours.

Remove the chicken from the pot and reserve the broth.  Set
chicken aside to cool. Remove the chicken from the bones and
shred.  Set aside.

Bring the broth to a boil and continue cooking until the liquid
has been reduced by about a third.  Lower the heat to the 
simmer and, when the broth has stopped boiling, stir in the 
beaten eggs. Stir the broth continuously until the eggs are 
cooked into firm curds.  Set aside.

Mix together the ground almonds, sugar and cinnamon. 

(May be prepared in advance to this point in the recipe.)

Use a pasty brush to coat the inside of a 14" pizza pan with 
melted margarine.  Lightly brush one sheet of phyllo with
margarine and place it "buttered" side up in the center of
the pan, ignoring the fact that the corners of the sheet of
dough will hang over the diameter of the pan. Repeat with a
second sheet of dough.  Then place six additional layers of
dough like the big hand of the clock radiating out from the
center of the dial at the 1:00, 3:00, 5:00, 7:00, 9:00, and 
11:00 positions.

Sprinkle half the almond mixture over the phyllo.  Top with 
the shredded chicken.  Use a slotted spoon to remove the egg
curds from the broth and spread them over the chicken.  Top
with the remaining almond mixture.

Drizzle two tablespoons each of the broth and melted margarine
over the filling.  Fold each of the overhanging sheets of 
dough over the filling, completely covering everything. Brush
the top of the pastry with melted margarine. Top with two
additional layers of dough, using margarine for each layer.

Bake the pie in a preheated 400 F oven for 25-30 minutes or 
ntil the top is golden brown.  Invert the pie onto a serving
platter. Lightly sift confectioners' sugar on the top. Sprinkle
cinnamon over the pie.

Serve hot, cut into wedges.

Archivist's note: Pastilla (also Bastilla or Bisteeya) is one
of the signature dishes of Moroccan-Jewish cuisine. The 
original version would have used squab (young pigeon) but 
most versions now call for chicken. It is often served at 
Sukkot because it is a stuffed dish representing abundance 
for the harvest festival. 

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