Sunday, December 29, 2013

Bastilla from Morocco an experience!

A dish worthy of a celebration.... Moroccan Bastilla

Our celebration was my husband Ricardo's Birthday so a truly special meal should be planned with flavors and aromas that he enjoys. My son Rene, who is at Culinary School, and I planned a menu, shopped and presented an amazing celebratory meal. Here are the details:

First Course

Dates Stuffed with Blue Cheese & Smoked Almonds, covered in Bacon and served with Red Wine Reduction

Second Course

Prosciutto and Spanish Manchego Croquettes served with a Romesco Sauce

Third Course

Seared Sea Scallops served with a Minted Pea Puree

Fourth Course

Moroccan Bastilla


You may have noticed that no desert is mentioned or you might think this is a lot of food, yet take into account that the first three courses were small plates or appetizer sized while the main dish was the Bastilla (or Bisteya). Rene hand-made puff pastry (yes, hand made!) to present Rum Pastry Cream stuffed in the flakiest "Cronuts" ever! (these are a croissant-doughnut hybrid, if you haven't had one of these creations then make a point to at least give them a try).

The Moroccan Bastilla tastes and looks quite exotic and the combination of flavors is truly one of a kind. I hope you will try to either go to a Moroccan restaurant or maybe you'll decide to follow the recipe and make one for yourself. Don't let the recipe scare you, just follow the directions and you'll find it's easier than you think plus the results will amaze you.

Chicken Bastilla is a traditional dish which has a light, crispy pastry shell concealing a savory saffron chicken, a omelet stuffing and a crunchy topping of fried almonds sweetened  and flavored with orange flower water. Garnished with powdered sugar and cinnamon which adds to the amazing blend of spices in this dish, You can also make it in advance, and refrigerate or freeze until baking time. The chicken can also be exchanged for other proteins.
  • 1 whole, large chicken, cut into pieces, skin and fat removed
  • 2 very large sweet white onions, chopped medium
  • 1 tablespoon ginger
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons white pepper
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric (or 1/4 teaspoon Moroccan yellow colorant)
  • 1 teaspoon saffron threads, crumbled
  • 2 or 3 small pieces (2 to 3") of cinnamon stick
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • --------------------------------------------------------------
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • 8 eggs, beaten
  • --------------------------------------------------------------
  • 2 cups whole blanched almonds
  • vegetable oil, for frying the almonds
  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar
  • 2 tablespoons orange flower water
  • 1 tablespoon butter, softened
  • --------------------------------------------------------------
  • 1/2 kg (about 1 lb.) warqa or phyllo dough
  • 1/2 cup butter, melted
  • 1 egg yolk, beaten
  • --------------------------------------------------------------
  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar
  • 2 or 3 tablespoons cinnamon


Cook the Chicken

Mix the chicken with onion, spices, butter and oil in a heavy-bottomed stock pot or Dutch oven. Cover, and cook over medium to medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, for about an hour, or until the chicken is very tender and falls off the bone. Do not add water, and be careful not to burn the chicken or the sauce as this will ruin the dish.
Transfer the cooked chicken to a plate, and reduce the sauce in the pot until most of the liquids have evaporated and the onions form a mass in the oil. Stir occasionally, and adjust the heat as necessary to prevent burning.
While the sauce is reducing and the chicken is still warm, pick the meat off the bones, breaking it into small 2" pieces. Stir in several spoonfuls of the onion mixture, cover the meat, and set aside.

Cook the Egg Stuffing

Transfer the remaining reduced onions and oil to a large non-stick skillet. Add the cilantro, and simmer for a minute or two. Add the beaten eggs, and cook as you would an omelet or scrambled eggs. Be patient, as it will take up to ten minutes for the eggs to set. Some oil separating from the eggs is OK. Set the egg stuffing aside.

Make the Almond Topping

Heat 1/2" of vegetable oil in a skillet over medium heat for about five minutes, or until the oil is hot. Test the oil by dropping in an almond. If tiny bubbles rapidly rise around the almond within a few seconds, the oil is ready. If the oil boils and splatters immediately, it's too hot.
Fry the almonds in batches, stirring constantly, until golden brown. As soon as the almonds are richly colored, transfer them to a tray lined with paper towels to drain and cool. Fried almonds will continue to darken a bit after frying, so be careful not to burn them while they're in the oil.
When the almonds have cooled completely, pulse them in a food processor until finely ground. Put them in a mixing bowl, and with your hands work in the powdered sugar, orange flower water, and tablespoon of butter. Set aside.

Assemble the Bastilla

See How to Make Chicken Bastilla for photos showing the assembly process.
Generously oil a 14" or larger round pan. If you don't have a round pan, work on an oiled flat baking sheet or large plate, and shape a circular pie as best you can.
Brush melted butter on each sheet of warqa or phyllo dough as you work. If using phyllo, take care to keep it covered with plastic as you work since it dries out very quickly.
Using your pan as a guide, overlap three or four single layers of warqa (shiny side down) – or double layers of phyllo dough – in a circular fashion, so that the inner halves of the pastry dough overlap in the center, and the excess dough drapes over the edges of the pan.(Remember to butter each layer of dough.)
Place one buttered 12" circle of warqa, or two 12" buttered circles of phyllo, in the center of the pan. This forms the bottom of the pie.
Cover the 12" circle with the chicken filling, and distribute the egg stuffing over the chicken.
Top the egg stuffing with another buttered 12" circle of warqa (shiny side up), or two 12" buttered circles of phyllo. Spread the almond topping over this layer of dough.
Fold the excess dough up and over the almonds to enclose the pie. Flatten and smooth any bulky areas.
Brush butter on the folded edges of dough, and top with three more overlapping layers ofwarqa (shiny side up) or phyllo, brushing butter on each layer. Fold down the edges of dough and carefully tuck them underneath the pie, molding and shaping the bastilla as you go.
Use your hands to spread the egg yolk over the top and sides of the pie. Lightly oil the bastilla in the same manner.
The bastilla is now ready for baking. It can be covered in plastic and stored in the refrigerator for up to a day, or in the freezer for up to two months.

Bake the Bastilla

Preheat an oven to 350° F (180° C). Place the bastilla on an oiled flat baking sheet in the middle of the oven, and bake for 30 to 40 minutes, or until deep golden brown. Note that a bastilla placed into the oven directly from the freezer will take up to an hour to bake.

Garnish and Serve

Generously coat the bastilla with sifted powdered sugar. Sift the cinnamon on top of the sugar, or use the cinnamon to decorate the top of the pie.
Serve immediately.