Saturday, November 13, 2010

Chicken Pastilla

This past week marks my two year anniversary on my trip to Morocco. Since I was with a tour group, while all the food we ate their was authentically Moroccan, much of it was made for the tourist trade -- as in, probably dumbed down a bit.  By far, the best meal of the two and a half weeks was when we were invited to the home of our Moroccan guide while in Fez. His wife cooked for probably two days to feed our group of over 20. My favorite item, the chicken pastilla (or b'stilla, bestilla, etc.), a savory meat mixed with sweet ground almonds, cinnamon and sugar, wrapped in sheets or warka or phyllo dough. (Here's my post from Nov 5, 2008 on it.)

I've seen different recipes for it over the past couple of years, and then recently, through Twitter, chatted with Maroc Mama, and she passed along her pastilla recipe from her blog. I really liked the simplicity of the techniques she used for making this dish; some of the other recipes I've seen involve straining part of the mixture, something I didn't really want to do. I followed most of what she had done, using boneless chicken thighs and tenders, so they cooked pretty quickly.  Otherwise, instead of using saffron threads (not my most favorite flavor), I used about 1 1/2 teaspoons of ras al hanout, a spice blend that is to Northern Africa as curry powder and garam masala are to Indian cooking. They're all blends, and every cook/ family will have a different version; the one I used is a mix of nutmeg, sea salt, black pepper, ginger, cardamom, mace, cinnamon, ground allspice, turmeric and saffron.
Typically, one large, round pastilla is made for all the diners to eat from; Maroc Mama had suggested making individual sized portions, and also had a link to another blogger who made appetizer-sized triangles out of them. And she said they freeze well! I used my mini pie pans, and a few triangles too.
And for final presentation, the pastilla are dusted with powdered sugar and cinnamon; I completed the meal with couscous and potatoes & sweet potatoes roasted with olive oil and some of the ras al hanout.
The taste took me back! I am really pleased with how this came out, and in fact, I am going to go eat one now. Thanks again to Maroc Mama for her recipe!

The Peached Tortilla

For the past couple months, I have seen a lot of Twitter chatter about a new mobile food truck, The Peached Tortilla, and their delicious offerings. It was one of the main trailers I really wanted to try at the Gypsy Trailer Picnic last weekend, but after watching the Twitter posts stream in on it, I realized the picnic was waaaay, waaay too crowded to try and go. So I missed out. But then told myself, okay, time to (attempt to) try one new trailer a week for a while to see what I am missing. And thus, I made the Peached Tortilla my first item on my  new "mission". 

It was a sunny/cloudy/spotty rainy day in Austin, not totally unusual for the fall-time. Found out the Peached Tortilla would be at 3rd & Colorado for lunch, opening at 11:15 am. I think I got there at 11:16. I could hear them inside the trailer as they were finishing up their prep. Eric, the owner came out and saw me waiting, and said they'd be ready in just a minute or two. After repositioning the truck slightly, he came out and we chatted for a couple of minutes. He said that Gypsy had been totally crazy for them; they were told to expect to serve 1,000 units of food over a nine hour period. They sold out in three hours.  He kinda sounded like they were still recovering!
I told Eric I had particularly heard about his pork belly, and asked his recommendation, the taco or the slider. He suggested the slider, as they're done on sweet Hawaiian rolls, you get more of the sweet/savory contrast. Works for me! I ordered a slider & a chicken satay taco. He also mentioned their pork belly is fatty, not meaty, and said some people don't really *get it.* Come ON people! Fat = flavor! So I was all kinds of good with fattier pork belly. Right as I got my order, the rain started up again, and I made haste for the car.  It rained heavily for about 3 minutes, so glad I was "indoors"! 
Yes, the picture of the food is taken on the front seat of the car.  On the left is the pork belly, or as they call it, their bahn mi sandwich. In addition to the lovely pork belly, there's a carrot & pickled daikon slaw and sriracha mayo on it. That pork was damn good! And a very generous serving! I don't know if that's because Eric knew my affinity for pork belly, or if that's their normal serving size. Nicely braised, a bit of crispiness on the outside, and the soft succulent fat... up there with the pork belly I had at Uchiko, for a fraction of the price! Speaking of prices, I hope they are staying afloat, because their prices are ridiculously cheap for what they are offering.

So I could eat about ten of those sliders.  The chicken satay taco was good, but really, after pork belly THAT good, almost anything would pale in comparison. The menu says the chicken is ginger-soy and peach marinated, flavors I failed to detect. Very moist chicken, though, not overdone. The coconut red curry peanut sauce was tasty, but for me, it could have had a little more peanut influence; all very fresh though.

Very curious about their Belgian fries, not to mention the catfish taco, which I've also heard a good deal about through Twitter. As their website says: peached = flavor smitten. Call me peached, indeed.