Bstilla or Poultry Pie with Chicken

One of the signature dishes of Morocco, Bstilla is traditionally made with pigeon. It was one of the dishes we most enjoyed during a two week trip to this wonderful North African country. This version of the dish substitutes chicken thighs and breasts. Making it is somewhat of a production. You can cook the chicken and its sauce ahead. Assembly is done just before cooking. It is a very rich and delicious dish.

Serves 8 as a main course
Level of Difficulty: Difficult

3-1/2 to 4 pounds chicken parts (thighs and breast)
3 tablespoons sunflower or safflower oil
1-1/2 large onion grated
Salt and pepper
½ teaspoon ground ginger
2-1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon saffron

6 eggs, lightly beaten
1 cup chopped flat leaf parsley
½ cup chopped cilantro
1-1/2 cups blanched almonds
2-3 tablespoon granulated sugar

1-1/2 sticks unsalted butter, clarified
14 sheets phyllo pastry

Powdered sugar

Cook the chicken with the onions, ginger, 1 teaspoon cinnamon, 2 tablespoons oil, salt and pepper in a covered pan with just enough water (about 2-1/2 cups) to cover for 1-1/2 hours. Chicken should literally be falling off the bones.

Remove poultry from pan. Allow it to cool slightly. Take off its skin and remove the meat completely from the bones. Chop into ½ inch pieces. Set aside. Reduce the liquid in the pan over high heat to about 2/3 cup.

Coarsely chop almonds. Fry in remaining tablespoon of oil until lightly brown. Remove and drain off oil on paper towels. Toss with sugar and teaspoon of cinnamon.

Dish can be made ahead to this point.

Heat sauce and stir in the eggs. Cook until almost set. Add parsley and cilantro.

To assemble the pie.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Brush 10-inch pie pan with butter. Place all the phyllo sheets under a dampened dish towel. Remove one at a time to brush with butter. Keep all the other pieces covered until you are ready to use them. Do three sheets running north to south followed by three sheets going east to west. Spread with the chicken mixture. Top with the egg mixture. Place another sheet of phyllo one by one on top of this. Butter each sheet as it is placed on. Sprinkle the almond mixture over the top. Fold phyllo over the top of the pie into as tight a package as you can manage. Turn upside down and top the pie with remaining four layers of buttered phyllo. Fold these top sheets under the whole pie. It will help to use a spatula to do this.

Bake for about 30 minutes until the top is crisp and golden brown. Take a second 10 inch pie pan and place on top of the pie. Invert the pie so that it rests in the second pan. Return to the oven in the second pan and bake another 15 minutes until the bottom is golden brown.

Turn over the pie and serve dusted with powdered sugar and decorated with remaining cinnamon. Cut into slices to serve.

Jinny Fleischman is a cooking teacher in Washington, DC. With her husband, Ed, she runs Company’s Coming. It is a hands on, cooking for fun program that focuses on easy to prepare, delicious meals. Widely traveled, the Fleischmans bring a world of food and wine experiences to their classes.

Complementary Wines: Dolcetto, Rosé

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