Thursday, December 25, 2014

Moroccan Pastilla

This recipe reminds me of spanikopita pie, except it's a Moroccan version. The spices and flavors are so beautiful together--cinnamon, ginger, nuts and raisins layered with chicken in a beautiful, creamy sauce--they are uncommon in America yet so perfect together. This is protein-packed (can I hear the men in the house say "Yeah!"), and it is definitely also an action-packed cooking experience. 

Give it a go! 

Also, if you've never worked with phyllo dough before, don't be afraid. It's actually really easy if you just keep it safe from drying. Watch Alton Brown's episode on making baklava to see a true master's explanation. 

2 oz raisins, soaked in water
1 roll of of phyllo dough
1 stick of unsalted butter plus 1/2 cup olive oil1 tbsp. butter

6 chicken drumsticks
3 Tbsp olive oil
2 yellow onions, minced
1 saffron dose
1 inch fresh ginger root, peeled and grated finely or finely chopped* 
1 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp paprika
Dash of nutmeg
4 Tbsp fresh coriander (cilantro), chopped
2 Tbsp fresh parsley, chopped
1/3 cup water

2 oz blanched almonds

2 tbsp. brown sugar
1 tsp. cinnamon
4 eggs + 1 egg yolk

*Try to find a piece with a soft, thin, light colored skin because it's easier to grate/chop and has a more delicate flavor

1. First, take one roll of your frozen phyllo sheets out of the box and lay it on a plate, still in the wrapper (or else they will dry out). They will need about 1 hour to thaw, in my experience. Or, you can place the plate in the fridge overnight and they will be all thawed out for the next day. 

2. Next, add your raisins to a bowl of hot water and set aside to soak. 

3. Preheat a high-sided pan (one that will fit all of the chicken in one layer) to medium heat. Salt your chicken evenly. Once you wave your hand over the pan and the air is hot, add in 1 tbsp. butter and let it sizzle to coat the pan. Toss in your chicken pieces and brown them on all sides, cooking for about 5 minutes total. Set the meat aside on a plate.

4. Add the 3 tbsp. olive oil to the same pan and cook the onion together with the spices: saffron, fresh ginger, ground ginger, cinnamon, paprika, and nutmeg. Saute until fragrant and the onion softens slightly, a few minutes. Add the chicken back into the pan along with half of the parsley and coriander and 1/3 cup of water. Sprinkle over 1 tsp of salt, and cover and simmer for 30 minutes on low heat. 

5. While the chicken is cooking, get another saute pan going over medium heat. Add in a splash of olive oil and the almonds. Toast them until they become fragrant and warm and then stir in the sugar and cinnamon and remove to a bowl. Strain off the raisins and stir them into this mixture as well.

 6. Once the chicken is fully cooked and a beautiful fragrance is wafting forth from the stove, remove the drumsticks from the pan and chop up all of the chicken very finely. Keep the lid off of the sauce in the pan and let it continue simmering until it reduces by 2/3. 

While you're waiting for the sauce to thicken, get started on the phyllo pastry. 

7. Get out either a 9 inch cake mold with decently high sides (maybe 2.5-3 inches) or an 8x8 square, glass casserole dish. 

8. Place the stick of butter in a bowl and heat in the microwave until melted completely, and then stir in the olive oil. Set a pastry brush in there. 

9. Now, take the package of phyllo dough out of the wrapper and CAREFULLY unroll it onto a flat surface. Cover with a lightly damp kitchen towel. 

10. First, paint the whole inside of your pan with a layer of butter, then take one sheet of phyllo dough and gently rest it in the pan, being sure to let the long edges drape over the sides of the pan. Paint the entire top surface of this sheet--up to the corners--of phyllo with the butter mixture, and then place another layer of phyllo dough over it crosswise (this way you will have edges hanging over all sides of your pan and will cover all the sides of the "pie"). Continue to repeat this process until you have about 8-10 layers of phyllo all layered with butter and smoothed together, with all the edges hanging out of the pan and dripping butter all over your counter (because this inevitably happens). Be sure to rub all of the edges together to make sure they are all buttered, so they don't become crispy and shatter. 

Preheat the oven to 400F.

11. Now, let's turn our attention back to the filling. Beat the eggs up in a bowl with the rest of the coriander and parsley. Pour this mixture into the reduced sauce, and stir over low heat until thickened, being careful not to scramble the eggs! Take off of the heat. 

Okay, we've finally made it to the final stage. 

12. Sprinkle about half of the chicken into your phyllo crust. Sprinkle over about half of the nut and raisin mixture, and ladle over about half of the sauce. Layer this again. To complete the pie, add 4 more layers of phyllo dough, separated by butter again, to the top of the meat, and then fold in all of the overhanging edges into the center.

Cook for about 30 minutes, until golden brown on top. Serve with bright green vegetables or a salad.


  1. Hello! Marvelous recipe! Could it be cooked 90% then Frozen? Re-heat in pan for service? Tks.

    1. Hi there,

      I have not tried it, but I bet you could! Just skip the final bake and freeze it--make sure you have a really good seal of butter over the last layer of phyllo. I would definitely thaw it out in the fridge overnight before baking. Enjoy!