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!

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