This is one of those recipes that I been waiting to make from Dorie’s book, so when I saw it go up as the choices for our January FFwD group, I did a happy little dance.
Dorie gives us a quick historical lesson on the dish by telling us that this dish is one of the legendary dishes of Morocco that the French has adapted and made their own. Upon further investigation on my part, some say that Arabs brought it to Morocco from the Middle East, and some even venture to say that because of the delicate pastry sheets that incase it, specifically from Persia. This dish has been around! But whoever took the first crack at this dish; it is known today as typical of Morocco and highly regarded as a national dish of that country.
This elaborate meat pie is traditionally made with pigeon or squab, since squabs are often hard to get, chicken is more often use as the substitute. Another substitute is using the phyllo sheets as the blanket that covers this entire filling. In morocco they use a combination of crisp layers of the crepe-like warka dough, also known as Feuilles de brick, which is a thinner cousin of the phyllo dough. In some cases you can find them in Middle Eastern markets or simple buy it online via amazon.com.
No matter where it comes from, this dish was a hit over at our house and most likely will be made again.
It is a bit labor intensive and I highly recommend that when you make it, give yourself two days to put together.
You start with marinating the chicken with onions, garlic and a spice blend made up of saffron, ginger, coriander and cinnamon. Then you cook all of this with chicken broth for another hour until you have a tender chicken that can be shredded. Then the liquid is thickened to form a custard-like sauce with beaten eggs and lemon juice.
The shredded chicken is then added to the sauce and fresh herbs, in this case, parley and cilantro, are mixed in. At this point you chilled overnight, even though Dorie’s recipe tells you can do this all in one day, I highly recommend the overnight chilling time. Leaving the chicken chilling for a day in the refrigerator is going to married all of those exotic flavors together.
The next day, I started with taking out my phyllo dough that I left to thaw in the refrigerator, out and preparing it to cover the 8x2 baking pan that I was going to use to make the pie in. I melted the butter and toasted the almonds and set up a nice assembly line. The recipe calls for you to basically cover the pan (with overhang) with the phyllo sheets that has be generously brushed with the melted butter. You sprinkle the toasted almonds and the fill the whole thing with the chilled chicken filing, fold the overhanging sheets inward and top with more almond and then cover with more layers of phyllo sheets that you fold inward along the edge to make it nice and tight. The final step is to sprinkle some cinnamon sugar on top and bake in a 400°F oven for 20 minutes, then bring the temperature down and finish off with another 20 minutes of cooking time.
The whole dish is screaming “served me now” by the time you get it out of the oven, which is how the recipe recommends, warm or at room temperature.
We have been eating this for the past 3 days and it has gotten better with time. To warm up we simply use our little toaster oven to bring it back up to room temperature and it’s just as good.
Tom: “It has an unusual taste at first bite, but then by the second bite, it grows on you and it’s actually quite delicious, I’m hoping you make it again”.
Like Tom I had to agree, the taste is different, but I tend to like Moroccan food and they love to mix their savory/sweet, which is something that I love to do anyways. And this dish is just that a perfect marriage of sweet and savory that just works. I’m going to try this again, but this time, I’m going to try this version of it
Things a did differently from the original recipe:
- I used paprika, instead of saffron, since I could not find a good quality of it around town and when I did, it was astronomical in price. I went online, and found it less pricy and it was doable, but I would not have gotten it in time. (Lesson learned for next time: plan ahead!)
- I also added a bit of turmeric to the original spice blend.
- And fresh grated nutmeg to the filling along with some red pepper flakes to give it a kick.
As with all of French Fridays with Dorie recipes you can check out the rest of the groups creations here