I used to make all sorts of plans for the day or, for that matter, for the season. There were always thoughts of canning this or pickling that. I would want to see that movie or meet those new friends for drinks. There were dinner parties to attend and menus to plan.
Not so anymore.
I keep my expectations low. I never know how the day, the week, or the season might look. So when I saw the google streetview truck driving away from my home as I pulled into my driveway, I could only sigh. There was an exersaucer on the yellow and brittle front lawn, an old truck canopy in the driveway, the remnants of our home remodel strewn about along with an enormous pile of shoes by the front door.
I guess they don’t call ahead.
One can only hope the next homeowners aren’t so tech savvy and miss out on the delightful and likely semi permanent image of my messy house.
However, I can’t say I’m really upset over this. Like I said, I keep my expectation low and, therefore, the real magic happens when I unexpectedly accomplish something. This might take the form of a clean house or a clean child. It might also mean I pick up my phone and call the person I’ve been meaning to call forever. Or, in a very special case, I might actually cook a noteworthy meal.
That’s what happened this week. It was a pleasant and wonderful surprise. My little one slept as I flounced about the kitchen chopping this and preparing that. It was bliss. It worked out beautifully. Chicken B’stilla is a miraculous dish with sweet and savory notes. I think it’s perfect for any time of year, really. The chicken was moist and a touch sweet. The fresh spices were aromatic and the perfect balance. The filo dough gave it a touch of heartiness like a pot pie of more sophisticated measure. In short, we loved the chicken b’stilla and feasted upon it for several meals. No accompaniments are necessary either. Now that is truly a feat of greatness for a busy mama.
I didn’t get a great picture of the chicken b’stilla while it rested on the pretty plate with steam swirling about. I had it in mind to do that, but I was starved and had my fork in hand the moment it came out of the oven. Are you disappointed? I really hope not. It’s good to keep your expectations low around here.
8 boneless chicken thighs, skinned
2 large onions, coarsely chopped
3 garlic cloves, split and chopped
3/4 tsp ground ginger
3/4 tsp ground coriander
3/4 tsp ground cinnamon
Big pinch of saffron threads
2 1/2 cups of chicken broth
3 tbsp. fresh lemon juice
3 large eggs
2 tbsp honey
Freshly ground pepper
1 tbsp chopped fresh thyme
1 tbsp chopped fresh parsley
8 sheets filo (each 9×14 inches)
About 6 tbsp unsalted butter, melted
3 ounces sliced almonds (a scant cup), toasted and chopped
Cinnamon sugar and confectioner’s sugar, for dusting
Put the chicken pieces, onions, garlic, and spices into a Dutch oven or other large casserole and give everything a good stir. Cover and let the chicken marinate for one hour at room temperature.
Add the chicken broth and 1 tsp salt to the pot and bring to a boil over high heat. Lower the heat so that the liquid simmers, cover the pot, and cook for 1 hour, at which point the chicken should be tender.
Using a slotted spoon, transfer the chicken to a bowl. Strain the broth, saving both the liquid and the onions. When the chicken is cool enough to handle, cut the meat into small cubes or shred it.
Clean the Dutch oven and pour the broth back into it, or pour the broth into a medium saucepan. Whisk in the lemon juice, bring to a boil, and cook until you have 1 cup liquid. Reduce the heat to low.
Beat the eggs with honey, and, whisking all the while, pour into the broth. Heat, whisking constantly, until the sauce thickens enough that your whisk leaves tracks in it, about 5 minutes. Pull the pan from the heat and season the sauce with salt and pepper.
Sir the chicken and reserved onions into the sauce, along with the thyme and parsley.
Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with foil.
Place your filo sheets between sheets of wax paper and cover with a kitchen towel. Brush a 9-inch round cake pan, one that’s 2 inches tall, with melted butter. Brush 1 sheet of filo with melted butter and center it in the pan, so that the excess hangs over the edges. Brush another sheet and press it into the pan so that it’s perpendicular to the first sheet and forms a plus sign. Place a third and then a fourth buttered sheet into the pan so that they form an X; the overhang from all the sheets should cover the edges of the pan.
Sprinkle half the almonds over the filo. Spoon in the saucy chicken, spreading it evenly across the pan, and top with the rest of the almonds. Fold the overhanging filo over the chicken.
Butter the remaining sheets of filo, stacking them one on top of the other on the work surface. Using a pot lid or the bottom of a tart pan as a guide, cut out a 10- to 11- circle. Center the circle over the cake pan and gently tuck the edge of the dough into the pan, working your way around it as though you were making a bed. Brush the top of the b’stilla with a little butter and sprinkle with some cinnamon sugar. Place the pan on the baking sheet.
Bake the b’stilla for 20 minute, then lower the temperature to 350 degrees and bake for 20 minutes more. If the top seems to be getting too brown at any point, cover it loosely with foil. Transfer the b’stilla to a cooling rack and let it rest for about 5 minutes before dusting it again, this time with confectioner’s sugar.
Lay a piece of parchment over a cutting board and have a serving platter at hand. Turn the b’stilla out onto the parchment-lined board and then invert it onto the serving platter, so that it’s right side up. Serve the b’stila now, cutting it into wedges, or serve it warm or at room temperature.
Adapted from Around My French Table