If any country understands the appeal of combining sweet and savory, it’s Morocco. They flavor their roasted meats with cinnamon and wash them down with sweet mint tea. A contender for Morocco’s national dish, pastilla combines sweet and savory like none other. Traditionally made with squab, the hearty Berber meat pie is wrapped in a phyllo-dough crust dusted with powdered sugar.
Yassir Raouli, who recently announced plans to expand his Bistro Truck venture with a brick-and-mortar restaurant called Rustic on the Lower East Side, makes a chicken and a seafood version for his curbside customers. He shares the recipe for his Moroccan Chicken Almond Pastilla, a specialty of the truck.
Moroccan Chicken Almond Pastilla
by Yassir Raouli
1/2 whole organic chicken, skinned and cut into quartered
1 bunch parsley, chopped
1 large red onion, finely chopped
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ginger powder
1 teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon saffron
6-8 quail eggs
10 ounces almond paste (blanch, fry, and grind your own in a food processor with 2 teaspoons of honey)
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1 box phyllo-dough sheets
1 stick salted butter
pinch sugar or honey
1 egg for an egg wash
For the filling:
In a large pot, melt a pat of the butter and sauté the onions until caramelized. Add the chicken and a handful of parsley, the rest of the butter minus 2 teaspoons, and the salt, pepper, saffron, and cinnamon, as well as a little sugar or honey. Add enough water to cover the chicken, and cook, covered or in pressure cooker, on medium heat until the chicken is tender and falling off the bones.
Remove the chicken from the pot and debone the meat, shredding it into a bowl while the sauce continues to simmer. When the sauce looks thick enough to spoon, add 5 quail eggs, one by one, beating them as you go. Add the chicken back into the sauce with the last of the butter and 1 teaspoon of fresh parsley. Mix until well incorporated and continue simmering until the liquid evaporates.
For the pastilla:
Grease a pie plate with butter, then layer two sheets of phyllo dough into the mold (smooth side down), overlapping them and letting them hang over the edge by one-third. Place a couple of smaller square sheets in the center of the mold for reinforcement. Spread a layer of the chicken mixture on the dough, followed by the almond paste. Pan-fry a quail egg, sunny-side up, seasoned with a pinch of salt and pepper, and place on top.
Fold the overhanging edges of the pastry back over the filling like flower petals. Brush them with egg wash, overlapping them and letting them hang over the edge of the mold. Bake in a 450-degree F oven for 8-10 minutes, until golden crisp. Gently slide the pastilla onto a serving platter, and decorate with a pattern of icing sugar and cinnamon, and enjoy!
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