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B'stilla - Moroccan Chicken Pie

I've been eating b'stilla my whole life, and every time I eat it, I'm always amazing by how delicious it is. Sweet and nutty from almond sugar, savory and perfectly spiced from the ras al hanout and the chicken, and delightfully aromatic from the parsley, onions, and lemon juice. Whenever we cook b'stilla, the wonderful smells of onion, garlic, toasted almonds, spices, and boiling broth linger in the house for hours. If you've never made or even eaten b'stilla, I highly encourage you to make it. It's very easy, incredibly delicious, and most of it can be made in advance, so it really isn't too time-consuming. Everyone in our family eats b'stilla, and all the guests we've made it for love it too. Is it the perfect meal? If it's not perfect, then it's sure up there.

Makes 2 9-inch pies.

Ingredients

For the almond sugar

  • 1 cup slivered almonds

  • 1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon granulated sugar

  • 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon

For the filling

  • 1 large white onion, diced

  • 1 tablespoon butter

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil

  • 4 cloves garlic, finely minced

  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger

  • 1 tablespoon ras al hanout (Middle Eastern spice bland - can be found in the spice isle of most grocery stores)

  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon, plus more for garnish

  • 2 1/2 cups chicken broth 

  • 4-5 pounds chicken meat (I prefer boneless, skinless chicken breasts, but you could use thighs if you prefer)

  • 1/2 cup fresh parsley, finely chopped

  • 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice, or to taste 

  • 6 whole eggs, beaten

  • 1 package phyllo dough (paper-thin pastry, often used in Middle Eastern cuisine like baklava) 

  • Kosher salt, to taste

  • Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

  • Confectioners sugar (for garnish)

Instructions

  1. First, make the almond sugar. Preheat the oven 350 degrees Fahrenheit or 180 degrees Celsius. Line a half sheet-tray with aluminum foil. Bake the almonds for 5 minutes, or until toasty and lightly browned.

  2. Process the almonds with the granulated sugar and 1 tablespoon cinnamon. Store in the fridge in an airtight until ready to use. This can be made several days in advance.

  3. In a large sauce pot or Dutch oven, cook the diced onions in the olive oil and butter for about 7 minutes, until golden and fragrant. Add the minced garlic, ras al hanout, ground ginger, cinnamon, and pepper to taste. Cook for a few minutes, until they smell toasty and delicious. Pour in the chicken broth and add in the chicken meat. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer, covered, for about 30 minutes.

  4. When the chicken is fully cooked, remove from the pot and set aside in a large bowl. Raise the heat on the aromatic broth, letting it reduce down to about 1 cup to 1 1/2 cups of liquid.

  5. When the broth has reduced, lower the heat to medium-low, and stream in the beaten eggs, whisking constantly. Continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until the eggs are fully cooked. Then, pour the mixture into a strainer over a bowl, and strain out any excess broth. Make sure to save it - it tastes amazing!

  6. Shred the chicken into bite-sized pieces, then add the eggs, parsley, and lemon juice to the chicken. Mix to combine, taste for seasonings, then add lemon and/or salt if needed. At this point, the mixture can be stored until ready to use, several hours or even several days. 

  7. Preheat the oven 425 degrees Fahrenheit, or 220 degrees Celsius.

  8. To assemble the b'stilla: spray two 9-inch cake pans with cooking spray. Layer phyllo dough so that it covers the surface of the cake pan, and drapes over the sides. Evenly sprinkle about 1/4 cup of almond sugar into each pan. Cover with another sheet of phyllo. It's okay if the phyllo is falling apart a bit. Add half the chicken-egg filling to each pan. Cover with another sheet of phyllo. Divide the remaining almond sugar evenly between the two pans. Cover with more phyllo. 

  9. Fold the phyllo hanging over the pan's sides on top of the pie. Crinckle and shape it to look rustic.This will give the b'stilla a craggly, crunchy texture. Spray with more cooking spray. Bake for 25-30 minutes, until the top of the b'stilla is golden brown and crisp.

  10. Sprinkle with confectioner's sugar and cinnamon. Serve hot and enjoy! B'stilla also reheats fairly well the next day. 

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