Post #2 for “Project Food Blog”: a classic ethnic dish (Moroccan bisteeya)
|September 25, 2010||Posted by ameliaps under "Project Food Blog”, challenge|
She might be in
My observations from preparing the dish follow:
- It was sublime, aromatic, delicate, exotic, an unexpected mix of flavors, and a must-repeat for the next special occasion.
- I liked that there were a number of food techniques involved, including clarifying the butter, layering phyllo dough (you have to be carefully not to let it dry out), toasting blanched almonds (you have to watch to avoid burning them), the preparation of the congealed eggs (it was interesting that the broth from cooking the chicken was used as the base for the pie filling, once thickened with the curdled lemony egg mixture)
- I used fresh ginger instead of ground (I think fresh is usually better than dried)
- I used chicken instead of pigeon squab and omitted the giblets (making the dish more “accessible”)
- I ended up testing a different format too: triangle pockets. I loved this smaller, appetizer version and will repeat it again.
- I was fascinated by the cinnamon-sugar dusting and tried to keep it traditional by creating an abstract pattern, as Muslim custom suggests
- Moroccan custom suggests that you eat the dish hot from the oven using your fingertips. We tried that and it was a great experience: the heat, the amazing taste unaffected by metal, and a closer understanding of another country’s culture and traditions.
- Interestingly, I find this ancient dish quite modern. While sweet and savory is nothing new, cutting edge chefs are re-presenting it in interesting preparations, putting savory in sweet (seaweed nougat, bacon-and-egg ice cream) and sweet in savory (white chocolate and caviar, Parmesan marshmallows, caramel-encased egg yolk).
From “Couscous and other Good Food from Morocco” By Paula Wolfert
Serves: 12 (as part of Moroccan dinner)
4 squabs or 1 1/2 frying chickens (4 pounds), quartered, with giblets
5 cloves of garlic, peeled
1 cup chopped parsley, mixed with a little chopped fresh green coriander
1 Spanish onion, grated
Pinch of pulverized saffron
1/4 teaspoon turmeric
1 scant teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3/4 teaspoon ground ginger
3 cinnamon sticks
1 cup butter
1/4 cup salad oil
3/4 pound whole blanched almonds
1/4 cup lemon juice
1/2 to 3/4 pound phyllo pastry or 40 leaves
1. Wash poultry well and pull out as much fat as possible from cavities. Crush garlic and make a paste of it with 2 tablespoons salt. Rub the poultry with the paste, then rinse well and drain. Put the squabs or chickens in the casserole with giblets, herbs, onion, spices, half the butter, a little salt, and 3 cups water. Bring to a boil, then lower heat, cover, and simmer for 1 hour.
2. Meanwhile, heat the vegetable oil in the skillet and brown the almonds lightly. Drain on paper towels. When cool, crush them with a rolling pin until coarsely ground, or run through nut grinder. Combine almonds with 1/3 cup confectioners’ sugar and 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon. Set aside.
3. Remove poultry, giblets, cinnamon sticks and any loose bones from the casserole and set aside. Rapidly, uncovered, reduce the sauce in the casserole to approximately 1 3/4 cups, then add the lemon juice. Beat the eggs until frothy, then pour into the simmering sauce and stir continuously until the eggs cook and congeal. (They should become curdly, stiff and dry.) Transfer the egg mixture to a colander and let drain (this will insure against a soggy bisteeya). Taste for salt and set aside.
4. Remove all the bones from the poultry. Shred into 1 1/2- inch pieces and chop the giblets coarsely.
5. Heat the remaining butter. When the foam subsides, clarify it by pouring off the clear liquid butter into a small bowl and discarding the milky solids.
6. Unroll the pastry leaves, keeping them under a damp towel to prevent them from drying out. Brush some of the clarified butter over the bottom and sides of the cake pan, then cover the bottom with a pastry leaf. Arrange 6 more leaves so that they half cover the bottom of the pan and half extend over the sides. (The entire pan should be covered.) Brush the extended leaves with butter so they do not dry out. (If using warka, arrange about 15 to 18 leaves around the bottom and sides; there is no need to butter extended leaves)
7. Fold 4 leaves in half and bake in the oven for 30 seconds, or until crisp but not too browned, or fry the leaves on an oiled skillet. (This is unnecessary if using warka)
8. Place chunks of poultry and giblets around the inner edges of the pan, then work toward the center so that the pastry is covered with a layer of shredded poultry. Cover this layer with the well-drained egg mixture from step 3, and the four baked or fried pastry leaves (or warka leaves).
9. Sprinkle the almond-sugar mixture over the pastry. Cover with all but 2 of the remaining pastry leaves, brushing each very lightly with butter.
10. Fold the overlapping leaves in over the top to cover the pie. Brush lightly with butter. Put the remaining 2 leaves over the top, lightly buttering each, and fold these neatly under the pie (like tucking in sheets). Brush the entire pie again with butter and pour any remaining butter around the edge. (Use the same procedure for warka.)
11. Bake the pie in 425-degree oven until the top pastry leaves are golden brown, about 20 minutes. Shake the pan to loosen the pie and run a spatula around the edges. If necessary, tilt the pan to pour off excess butter (which should be reserved). Invert the pie onto a large, buttered baking dish. Brush the pie with reserved butter and return to oven to continue baking another 10 to 15 minutes, or until golden brown.
12. Remove the bisteeya from the oven. Tilt to pour off any excess butter. Put a serving plate over the pie and, holding it firmly, invert. (The traditional upper filling is always the almond layer.) Dust the top of the pie with confectioners’ sugar and run crisscrossing lines of cinnamon over the top. Serve very hot.