Morocco dropped by. I wasn't expecting a North African kingdom, but company is always welcome. Especially such charming company — those cinnamon-warm spices, those lush stews and that habit of pressing savory against sweet. Intoxicating.
And no longer rare. I keep running into Morocco. The cook shop is stocked with couscoussiers and saffron threads. The chic home poses in Berber rugs, Moorish floor tile and low-slung couches.
Out to dinner recently I met bastilla (also known as pastilla, bisteeya or b'stilla), a sweet and savory pie stuffed with chicken and egg and wrapped up in sugar-dusted pastry. It's a delicious mouthful of contrasts charged with opening many a celebration in Morocco.
At home I folded an unorthodox version, using roast chicken, fresh ginger, cilantro and phyllo. It's more of a riff than a re-creation, tangy and tasty.
I keep meaning to crisp a platter and serve them to friends, but everyone's so busy fluffing couscous and polishing their tagines. Which I get. It's a delicious world to explore.
Prep: 1 hour
Bake: 25 minutes
Makes: 40 little pies
1/2 cup green onions, finely chopped
1/4 cup each, finely chopped: parsley, cilantro
2 tablespoons grated fresh ginger
1 teaspoon each, ground: cinnamon, cumin
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
4 cups cooked, shredded chicken*
1/2 stick unsalted butter, cubed
2 1/2 cups sliced almonds
2 cups ground almonds
1/4 cup sugar
20 sheets (about 1 pound) phyllo dough, defrosted
1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, melted
Crack eggs into a large mixing bowl. Whisk briefly. Stir in green onions, parsley, cilantro, ginger, cinnamon, cumin, 1 teaspoon salt and both kinds of pepper. Add chicken. Mix gently with a fork.
Melt cubed butter in a skillet over medium heat. Add sliced almonds and toast, shaking now and then, until golden, about 7 minutes.
Stir together ground almonds, sugar and 2 teaspoons salt.
Slice phyllo dough in half the short way, making 40 sheets, each about 9 by 13 inches. Cover with a damp kitchen towel. Set one sheet on a work surface. Paint with melted butter. Scatter on 1 tablespoon ground almonds. Fold dough in half the long way, forming a strip 4½ by 13 inches. Paint again; scatter on 1 tablespoon sliced almonds.
Scoop 1 tablespoon chicken into one corner. Fold up, flag-style, into a triangular packet. Brush with butter. Sprinkle with a little salt. Set on a parchment-lined rimmed baking sheet. Chill. Fold remaining pies.
Slide into a 375-degree oven and bake until hot inside and golden outside, about 20-25 minutes. Enjoy.
Inspired by Moroccan bisteeya, a sweet and savory chicken pie.
*Make your life easy: Buy a rotisserie chicken, shred meat, discard skin and bones. One 3-pound chicken yields about 4 cups shredded meat.
Leah Eskin is a Tribune Newspapers special contributor. Email her at email@example.com.