Thanksgiving Recipes: Becky Selengut's B'stilla

B'stilla is a Moroccan dish traditionally made with squab (aka a pigeon that hasn't yet learned to fly). If you can't find squab, it's easily substituted with chicken thighs. Don't be tempted to substitute with breast meat - the extra fat in the thighs can handle the extra cooking in the oven. B'stilla is a wonderful alternative dish to make for a brunch, paired with a cheese platter, some sliced figs and a big thermos full of Moroccan mint tea. For the holidays, I like to serve this dish on a big platter with sprigs of cilantro all around the outside and pomegranate seeds scattered on top and around the edges.

Makes one 10" pie

Ingredients

Filling

2 pounds squab meat (or chicken thighs, bone-in, skin removed)

1 onion -- chopped

1 carrot -- chopped

2 stalks celery -- chopped

1 tablespoon ginger, Freshly grated

½ teaspoon turmeric

½ teaspoon black pepper, freshly ground

1 cinnamon stick

1 teaspoon salt

1 cup cilantro -- chopped

6 eggs

Salt and Pepper, pinch each

Almond Mixture

½ pound almonds -- whole, toasted for 10 minutes in a preheated 350 oven

1/4 cup sugar

2 tablespoons cinnamon, ground -- best flavor if you grind fresh from whole sticks

4 each phyllo dough -- large sheets (found in the freezer section)

2 tablespoons butter, unsalted -- melted

powdered sugarm for garnish

cinnamon, ground, for garnish

Instructions
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Brown the chicken pieces well in a large saute pan. Add them to a large pot along with the chopped onion, carrot, celery, ginger, turmeric, black pepper, cinnamon stick and salt. Add just enough water to come half way up the sides of the chicken. Bring to a boil and then simmer, covered until the chicken is tender (about 30 minutes). Pull the chicken out to cool. Meanwhile, bring the stock to a slow boil and reduce the liquid by half. Strain the stock. Discard the solids. Reserve 1/3 cup of liquid for this recipe and reduce the rest until thickened to use as a sauce with the b'stilla. Remove the bones and skin from the cooled chicken, shred the meat and then mix with the cilantro. Set aside.

Heat a frying pan over medium high heat. Mix the eggs with a fork and season with salt and pepper. Cook the eggs along with the reserved liquid from above, until barely soft scrambled. Do not let them dry out! Mix together with the meat until well combined.

Put the almond mixture into a food processor and grind until the almonds are crushed to a slightly chunky powder.

Thaw the phyllo completely (best done in the refrigerator 24 hours before you need it). Be gentle, phyllo tears easily! Keep it from drying out by laying a piece of plastic wrap over it and then on top of that, a slightly damp cloth.

Get a 10" oven-proof skillet or a pie-pan would also work. Brush the skillet with melted butter. Unfold a layer of the pastry a bit more than halfway across the skillet, and then lay the other layer/sheet of dough over the other half, so they overlap in the middle and stick out beyond the edges of the pan. Brush with butter. Repeat with another layer.

Spread 1/2 of the almond mixture over the dough, then the chicken and egg mixture, then the rest of the almond mixture. Fold the phyllo dough in and over the filling from all sides, making sure to cover all the filling. Brush the top with melted butter.

Bake at 350 degrees for 12-15 minutes, until light brown. Turn over skillet (gently!) onto a plate to remove the B’stilla.

Sift a heavy layer