December 9, 2022
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Traditionally served at celebratory occasions such as weddings—or, perhaps, upset victories in the World Cup by the Moroccan national football team—the Moroccan dish chicken bastilla is an elaborate pie containing stewed chicken, eggs, and almond paste. The Irving Park eatery Shokran, one of Chicago's only Moroccan restaurants, serves it as an appetizer, and owner Khalid Kamal shared his recipe with us. (Read our profile of Kamal and Shokran.) “It’s genius, the process—it’s a long process—but to come up with it…” Kamal says of bastilla. “They mix things that you don’t think mix.”
For the Chicken:
1 (3- to 4-pound) whole chicken
2 oz olive oil
2 oz unsalted butter
2 large sweet onions, coarsely chopped
1 tbsp ground ginger
2 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp ground white pepper
1 tsp ground black pepper
1 tsp ground turmeric
1 tsp saffron threads
2 to 3 sticks cinnamon
For the Egg Layer:
2 oz coarsely chopped fresh parsley
8 large eggs, beaten
For the Almond Paste:
2 oz vegetable oil
2 cups whole blanched almonds
1/2 cup confectioners' sugar
2 tbsp orange blossom water
1 tbsp unsalted butter, softened
Store-bought phyllo dough
Egg yolk, beaten for egg wash
For the Garnish:
1/2 cup confectioners' sugar
2 to 3 tbsp ground cinnamon
1. For the Chicken: Cut the skinless chicken into pieces. Add the butter and oil to a large heavy-duty pot and heat on medium until the butter melts. Add the onion, and cook, stirring occasionally, until translucent, about 2 minutes. Add the spices and cook, stirring constantly, for about 30 seconds. Add the chicken pieces and stir until fully coated. Cover, and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, for about 1 hour, or until the chicken is very tender. Do not add water, and be careful not to burn the chicken or the sauce.
2. Transfer the cooked chicken to a plate, and reduce the sauce in the pot until most of the liquids have evaporated. Stir occasionally, and adjust the heat as necessary to prevent burning. Remove and discard the cinnamon sticks.
3. In the meantime, while the chicken is still warm, pick the meat off the bones, breaking it into small pieces. Place shredded meat in a bowl and stir in several spoonfuls of the onion from the sauce; cover the chicken and set aside.
4. For the Eggs: Transfer the remaining reduced sauce and oil to a large non-stick skillet. Add the parsley, and simmer for 1 to 2 minutes. Add the beaten eggs, and cook as you would scrambled eggs. It will take up to 10 minutes for the eggs to set. Set the cooked eggs aside.
5. For the Almond Paste: Roast the almonds in the oven at 350 degrees until they are golden brown. When the almonds have cooled completely, pulse them in a food processor until finely ground. Put them in a mixing bowl and work in the powdered sugar, orange blossom water, and softened butter. Set aside.
6. To Assemble: Oil a 14-inch or larger round pan. Brush melted butter on each sheet of phyllo dough as you work. Make sure to keep it covered with plastic since it dries out very quickly. Use your pan as a guide. Use 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. Butter each layer of dough.
7. Place two 12-inch buttered circles of phyllo in the center of the pan. This forms the bottom of the pie. Cover the 12-inch circle with the chicken, then layer the eggs over the chicken.
8. Top the eggs with another two 12-inch buttered circles of phyllo. Spread the almond mix over it.
9. 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 3 more overlapping phyllo sheets, brushing butter on each layer. Fold and tuck down the edges of dough carefully under the bastilla, shaping the bastilla as you go.
10. Lightly oil and brush the egg yolk over the top and sides of the bastilla.
11. The bastilla is now ready for baking. Covered in plastic, it can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 1 day, or in the freezer for up to 2 months.
12. To Bake: Place your rack in the center of the oven preheated to 350 F. Oil a flat baking sheet. Place the bastilla on oiled baking sheet in the middle of the oven, and bake for 30 to 40 minutes, or until deep golden brown. If frozen, the Bastilla will take up to 1 hour to bake. Internal temperature should reach 165 F.
13. Garnish and Serve: Coat the bastilla with sifted powdered sugar to taste. Use the cinnamon and the almonds to decorate the bastilla. Serve immediately.