Pastilla of Morocco

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When asked what’s been your favorite dish, lately, I’ve been saying this dish. Not just because it was delicious, but it was also completely new to me. Let’s start with something reminiscent and familiar: Chicken pot pie. You’ve got bites of chicken and carrots and onion, tossed in a creamy, buttery sauce; it’s wrapped up in a light, flaky pie crust to contrast perfectly with the richness of its insides. Take your classic chicken pot pie, and then elevate it to Pastilla.

Begin with the outside: phyllo dough. It’s delicate, it’s temperamental to work with, but it’s beautiful to eat. Layer the thin sheets of phyllo dough (I used a pie dish to contain it) to create the top of the Pastilla. All of the inside ingredients are layered, not mixed together, unlike your delicious Chicken pot pie. The chicken is also the star and main ingredient of this pie, cooked in spices including turmeric, ginger, and saffron, a departure from salt, pepper, and maybe garlic and a green herb tossed in, too. Layer this with some caramelized onions (a favorite ingredient of mine).

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The ingredient with shock factor, raising eyebrows and suspicions, is scrambled eggs, and it works. The role it plays is similar to a layer of cheese, creamy and mellow and a cohesive factor for its co-ingredients, but it still retains some texture. The billows of fluffy egg will soften the blows of spiced chicken and complex caramelized onions and sweet, grounded almonds, flavored with honey and cinnamon. I love this part of the dish. The texture contrast alongside the other ingredients (think of the phyllo dough alone) creates so much interest and curiosity in one bite.

Quick Quotes

Spencer: “This was very exciting and new! I am quite intrigued.”

Teresa: “A haunting-my-dreams/never-gonna-forget-you kind of encounter. So yeah, I liked it.”

Ingredient List

  • olive oil
  • whole chicken
  • onions
  • ground turmeric
  • ground ginger
  • saffron
  • salt
  • black pepper
  • fresh parsley
  • fresh coriander (cilantro)
  • blanched almonds
  • honey
  • Ground cinnamon
  • Icing sugar
  • eggs, scrambled
  • unsalted butter
  • phyllo pastry

Trivial Trifles

  • The capital of Morocco is Rabat.
  • The official languages include Arabian and Berber.
  • After the death of Muhammed, Islamic states began to spread through four major caliphates, or an Islamic state under the rule of a religious successor of Muhammed, from its origins in Mecca, Saudi Arabia. Parts of Morocco were included in this expansion (the Umayyad Caliphate) in the 7th and 8th century.
  • Europe became interested in Morocco prior to World War I due to its geopolitical potential within the Mediterranean. Morocco was under both Spanish and French control from 1912-1956, until it became independent once again.
  • Western Sahara, a Spanish colony from 1884-1976, a disputed territory south of Morocco (see map), continues to be part of a political deadlock between the Moroccan government and the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR). SADR controls about 20% of the territory it claims.
  • Who are the Berber people? An indigenous people from northern and western Africa, it is believed they have occupied these areas since at least 10,000 BC.

 

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