individual b'stillas (moroccan chicken and almond pies)

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Servs: 9

The traditional b'stilla is an enormous pigeon or chicken pie wrapped in golden paper-thin pastry leaves. However, we made individual pies for ease of serving. The idea of meat mixed with spices and encased in pastry was brought to Morocco by Arabs from the Middle East; the delicate pastry sheets, it is thought, came specifically from Persia.<p> Spices play a big part in Moroccan cooking. This legendary spice mixture is translated as "top of the shop."

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  • add   2 pounds chicken parts (about 1 whole breast, 2 thighs, and 2 legs)
  • add   1 tablespoon sesame seeds
  • add   1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • add   1 1/2 sticks (3/4 cup) unsalted butter
  • add   3/4 teaspoon ground ginger
  • add   1/4 teaspoon saffron threads, crumbled
  • add   3 tablespoons chopped fresh coriander
  • add   confectioners' sugar and cinnamon for sprinkling
  • add   3 large eggs, beaten lightly
  • add   2 teaspoons ras el hanout
  • add   8 whole allspice berries
  • add   1/2 cup blanched whole almonds, toasted and cooled
  • add   <B>For the filling:</B>
  • add   1 tablespoon ground ginger
  • add   15 whole black peppercorns
  • add   1 teaspoon coriander seeds
  • add   1 1/2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice, or to taste
  • add   3 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • add   a pinch dried red pepper flakes
  • add   8 whole cloves
  • add   seeds from 8 cardamom pods
  • add   1 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
  • add   1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • add   18 sheets (about 1 1/2 packages) <I>phyllo</I> (preferably Number 4 ultra-thin)
  • add   <B>For the almond sugar:</B>
  • add   1/2 teaspoon cuminseed
  • add   1 teaspoon fennel seeds
  • add   1 1/2 cups low-salt chicken broth
  • add   2 tablespoons hot water
  • add   1 stick cinnamon, broken in half
  • add   1 medium onion, chopped (about 1 1/4 cups)
  • add   1/2 teaspoon aniseed
  • add   <B>For the ras el hanout: (moroccan spice blend) </B>
  • add   a pinch ground mace
  • add   1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley leaves
  • add   2 garlic cloves, cut into thin strips


  1. To make the almond sugar:
  2. In a food processor grind fine almonds, granulated sugar, and cinnamon. Almond sugar may be made 1 day ahead and kept covered in a cool dark place.
  3. To make the filling:
  4. In a small bowl combine saffron with hot water and let stand 10 minutes.
  5. In a heavy 4-quart kettle sauté onion and garlic in 3 tablespoons butter over moderately high heat, stirring occasionally, until onion is golden, about 4 minutes. Reduce heat to moderate and add ginger, ras el hanout, and pepper. Cook mixture, stirring, 3 minutes.
  6. Add chicken parts, broth, and saffron mixture and simmer, covered, turning the chicken once, until chicken is very tender and cooked through, 25 to 35 minutes. Let chicken stand in cooking liquid off heat 30 minutes. Transfer chicken to a plate, reserving cooking liquid and solids, and, when cool enough to handle, shred chicken, discarding skin and bones.
  7. Measure reserved cooking liquid and solids and if necessary boil, stirring occasionally, until reduced to about 1 3/4 cups. Reduce heat to moderate and add eggs in a stream, whisking. Cook mixture, stirring, until eggs are set, about 3 minutes. Remove kettle from heat and pour egg mixture into a coarse sieve set over a bowl. Let mixture drain undisturbed 10 minutes before discarding liquid. Transfer egg mixture to a bowl. Stir in chicken, parsley, coriander, lemon juice, and salt and pepper to taste and chill. Filling may be made 1 day ahead and kept chilled, covered.
  8. Preheat oven to 425°F. and butter 2 large shallow baking pans.
  9. In a small saucepan melt remaining 9 tablespoons butter and keep warm but not hot.
  10. Cut phyllo sheets in half lengthwise and stack between 2 sheets wax paper. Cover wax paper sheets with a kitchen towel. On a work surface arrange a half sheet of phyllo with short side facing you and brush with melted butter. On this, layer and brush 3 more half sheets of phyllo in the same manner.
  11. Sprinkle 1 tablespoon almond sugar on short side of phyllo nearest you to cover about 2 1/2-by 4-inch area, leaving a 1-inch border on 3 edges. Put 1/3 cup chicken mixture over almond sugar and spread out slightly. Top chicken mixture with 1 more tablespoon almond sugar and roll up filling in phyllo, folding in sides after first roll. Transfer b'stilla immediately.
  12. Form 8 more b'stillas in the same manner with remaining phyllo, butter, almond sugar, and chicken mixture, chilling each b'stilla as it is made. B'stillas may be prepared up to this point 4 hours ahead and kept chilled, covered lightly with plastic wrap once cold.
  13. Bake chilled b'stillas in oven until tops and ends are puffed and browned, 15 to 20 minutes. Cool b'stillas slightly on a rack. Sprinkle b'stillas with confectioners' sugar and cinnamon and serve warm.
  14. To make the ras el hanout:
  15. In a spice grinder or cleaned coffee grinder grind fine aniseed, fennel seeds, allspice berries, cardamom seeds, cloves, peppercorns, cinnamon stick, sesame seeds, coriander seeds, cuminseed, and red pepper flakes, In a small bowl stir together ground spice mixture, mace, ginger, and nutmeg until combine well. Ras el hanout may be stored in a tightly closed jar in a cool dark place up to 6 months. Makes about 1/4 cup.

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