Here’s looking at you, Morocco
A pastilla is a popular Moroccan dish made with phyllo dough and frequently stuffed with chicken. | Curtis Lehmkuhl~Sun-Times Media
(From Ahmed Kazouini)
1, 16-ounce package phyllo dough
2 sticks unsalted butter, melted
1 large egg yolk, beaten
1 large (4-5 pound) chicken, whole or cut into pieces
5 medium sweet onions, chopped
1/4 cup virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons salt, to taste
1/2 teaspoon each black pepper, cinnamon, and turmeric
1/4 teaspoon saffron threads
1 bunch cilantro, chopped finely, for approximately ½ cup
8 large eggs, beaten
1 cup blanched slivered almonds, ground
1 cup sugar
2 tablespoons orange flower water
1 tablespoon honey
1/2 cup blanched slivered almonds
1/4 cup powdered sugar
Rinse chicken and pat dry. Put in large pot with onions, oil, salt and all spices, including saffron, in enough water to cover. Bring to boil, then simmer 30 minutes.
Add cilantro, and reduce heat for 5 minutes.
Take chicken off heat. Spoon out chicken from pot, peel meat off bone, shred it with your fingers and return meat to pot.
Place pot back on stove on simmer; add one egg at a time, stirring constantly with whisk for about 10 minutes.
Sauté ground almonds dry in a shallow pan until just golden brown; take off heat and blend in sugar and orange water. Set aside.
In large ceramic pie pan, coat bottom and sides with melted butter. Add five sheets of phyllo pastry, one on top of the other. Brush butter on top layer, then add one more layer.
Fill pie pan with chicken/egg mixture, then sprinkle with ground almond mixture.
Fold up sides of pastry toward center and brush with butter. Add another layer of pastry, and fold under inner edges of pan to seal. Brush this top layer of folded pastry with beaten egg yolk.
Bake at 350 degrees for approximately 30 minutes until golden brown on top. Allow to cool for about 10 minutes, then drizzle with honey, sprinkle with powdered sugar and cinnamon. Cut into pie-shaped wedges and serve.
Updated: November 9, 2012 11:55AM
Richard Mack and Jill Buckner describe themselves as two photographers with one vision.
Last May, they spent five days lugging heavy equipment through exotic marketplaces loaded with piles of fresh dates, olives and spices when they visited Marrakesh and Casablanca. It was the first of what could be multiple journeys to Morocco to complete their book of photos to tell the story of the country’s unique color, culture and cuisine. Forty of their photos will be displayed at Ysla Gallery in Wilmette in the exhibit, “Treasures of Morocco: A Sensual Feast of Color,” that will open with a special event Nov. 9.
The trip was a turning point for both artists. “It was mesmerizing,” said Buckner, a Wilmette resident. “The experience pushed me out of my comfort zone.”
They snacked on nuts and dates throughout the day, saving their appetites for traditional Moroccan dinners. A grilled sea bass encrusted in salt at Le Cabestan in Clasablanca was “the finest fish I’ve ever eaten,” recalled Evanston resident Mack. “It was salty, but not overly salty. I was a little surprised by the charcoal flavor; you could tell it was cooked outside on the grill.”
At Casa Nostra, a restaurant in Marrakesh owned by the family of their friend Ahmed Kazouini, chef/owner of Chez Joel in Chicago, they sampled tagines. Tagines are meals of meat or vegetables cooked in an earthenware pot. Tagine is the word used for the pot and the meal. “Chicken tagines are as common in Morocco as fried chicken is here,” Buckner said.
A Kazouini family favorite, pastilla, a savory-sweet chicken pie made with phyllo dough, will be served during the gallery event. Kazouini’s pastilla recipe was passed down from his great-grandmother and features ingredients like saffron, orange flower water and turmeric. “It’s a once-a-week dish in Morocco,” Kazouini said.
The recipe for pastilla is versatile: Traditionalists opt for stuffing it with squab or farm-raised pigeon; most Americans prefer chicken. Some combine the scrambled eggs and chicken; others keep them separate and layer them. Some people call the pie b’stilla; others say pastilla. But most agree that it is a delicious example of Morocco.
Artisinal, a new grocery across the street from Ysla Gallery, will make pastilla for the gallery event. While the store does not typically cater events, they stock the ingredients needed for pastilla.
For more information about “Treasures of Morocco: A Sensual Feast of Color,” see www.YslaPhotography.com.