The Melting Pot


The Melting Pot

Rebecca Christensen, Cactus Writer

Traditionally known as pigeon pie, bastilla is a traditional Moroccan dish made for special occasions. You can think of bastilla as a sort of pot pie, being wrapped in a pastry dough called warqa (or filo dough, in my case), and filled with poultry and spices and eggs.

The origins of bastilla are fairly well debated, as with most dishes, and while some sources point to the dish’s predecessor being Mediterranean, others believe it to be Arabic. Yet more claim it Andalusian, Syrian, or French. No matter its origins, however, it’s mainly a Moroccan dish used in celebrations and festivals and such, often served as the first course.

This is definitely a delicious dish, and worth finding ras el hanout, a spice mixture. I found it at world market for a reasonable price. Also, though it may seem odd, definitely sprinkle the sugar and cinnamon on top; it really works!

• 1⁄2 cup blanched almonds
• 2 lb. pigeon or bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs
• 2 cups chicken stock
• 2 eggs
• 2 tbsp. olive oil
• 3 cloves garlic, minced
• 3/4 medium yellow onion, minced
• 1 tbsp. ras el hanout
• 1⁄2 tsp. crushed red chile flakes
• 1⁄4 tsp. turmeric
• 2 tbsp. minced cilantro
• 2 tbsp. minced parsley
• Salt and pepper to taste
• 5 tbsp. unsalted butter, melted
• 8 sheets phyllo/filo dough
• 1⁄4 cup powdered sugar
• 1 tsp. ground cinnamon

1. Toast almonds in a saucepan over medium-high heat for about 5 minutes then let cool. Dump almonds into a blender and pulse until ground fairly small.
2. Add your poultry and stock to the pot and bring to a boil. Lower the heat to medium-low. Cook uncovered until your meat is cooked through, about 40 minutes.
3. Transfer meat to a cutting board and let rest until cool enough to handle. Shred the meat and set it aside.
4. Simmer the stock left in the pot until there’s about a cup or so left, which shouldn’t take long if you left the pan uncovered. Pour into a heatproof bowl, let cool until warm, and whisk your eggs in.*
5. Wipe down your pan and add the oil, raising the heat to medium, and sauté the garlic and onions until they’re soft and golden. Add the ras el hanout, chile flakes, and saffron (or turmeric), cook an additional minute or two, and then remove pan from the heat.
6. Stir in the almonds, egg-stock sauce, meat, cilantro, and parsley. Salt and pepper to taste.
7. Turn your oven to 350°. Grease a spring form pan or circular cake pan however you wish. Brush a sheet of phyllo and lay into the pan, leaving the edges hanging over the side. Repeat, and lay another sheet crosswise to the first. Spread a third of the filling over the phyllo, and add two more sheets as you did the first ones. Repeat until all the filling has been used.
8. Fold the edges of the phyllo dough into the pan over the filling, and lay another two sheets of phyllo dough onto the bastilla, tucking the edges under the whole.
9. Bake for 30-40 minutes, until top is golden and you can hear the filling bubbling. If using a spring form pan, let cool for a couple minutes before removing. Dust the entire top with powdered sugar, and cinnamon.
** Alternatively, if, like the author, you didn’t read the directions thoroughly and tried to temper the eggs and add them to the hot liquid, just pour the mixture into a blender to get rid of cooked egg lumps. The sauce tastes fine that way.