ffwD: Chicken B’stilla

"4 and 20 blackbirds baked in a pie..."

I was hesitant about this week’s recipe. There were several ingredients involved that were new to my repertoire, mainly saffron, chicken thighs, and phyllo dough. It was interesting trying to find saffron at the grocery store near my office. When I asked where the saffron was located, not one, but two store clerks looked at me puzzled and asked, “What’s saffron?” Luckily, I was able to hunt it down myself. Also, I had a co-worker of mine (Codename: Tasha) help me pick out four chicken thighs because I didn’t know which ones were okay looking, as I mainly cook chicken breasts. Plus, I wasn’t planning on using all eight thighs because it was just me and my sister (Codename: Psychology Gamer) for this meal.

Anyway, as I made it home with my items, I immediately started on the marinade for the chicken. The smells of the cinnamon and saffron were pretty intoxicating, and I started to get excited about the dish. Side note: the jar of saffron suggested that I crush the saffron and let it steep in a little hot water in order to “heighten color and flavor.” Well, I definitely wanted the color and flavor of my saffron heightened, so I did as suggested and added both the strands and the water into the marinade.

After the quick hour marinate time, I added the chicken broth and allowed the chicken to simmer and become tender. I was pleasantly surprised when I noticed the spices did not “wash away” from the thighs when I poured the broth over them.

After another hour of smelling the stronger cinnamon, coriander and saffron aromas, I was ready to get this show on the road. I quickly shredded the chicken and began to make the sauce. After boiling down the broth, I was left with about one cup and a fourth left, so I added the honey and egg mixture. I’m not sure whether I had the heat high enough because my sauce never got to the point where the whisk made tracks, but it definitely thickened up. I even timed myself for the five minutes of straight whisking, which I wasn’t too patient doing. I kept checking the timer on my iTouch.

By the time I got to the phyllo dough part of the recipe, the spices’ aromas had teased me enough, and this is where I became rather impatient. Bad move when working with phyllo dough. Despite keeping the sheets in the wax paper and covered with a dish towel, each and every buttered sheet ripped as I slowly and painstakingly attempted to lay them in the pan. One word comes to mind when I think about my inaugural experience with phyllo dough: ANNOYING. I was in no mood to deal with its fickle nature and was rather hungry to boot. Once I got the first four sheets situated in the pan (I used a springform instead of a cake pan), I hurriedly buttered the last four sheets, ignoring about 1/3 of each sheet with the butter, knowing that I was going to cut a circle out of buttered 2/3 portion. I became even more annoyed knowing that after I buttered the last sheet, I would need to dirty up another pan when tracing the circle for the top cover. Seriously, by the time I slid this dish in the oven, I was more relieved to be finished with the stupid phyllo dough. However, I already know this will not be my last experience with phyllo dough because the package came with 18 sheets. So, you know I have to make something with them because it would be wasteful not to.

As the dish cooked, the aromas of the whole dish intensified. By the time I pulled the dish out of the oven, my phyllo dough annoyance was gone thanks to a hot shower. The specks of the cinnamon and sugar on top looked comforting, and I was ready to dig in. When I tasted my first bite, it was pretty delicious. However, I think I enjoyed the chicken filling and the cinnamon sugar dusting more than the phyllo dough wrapping. My sister, Psychology Gamer, didn’t care for the mixing of sweet and savory. After the first couple of bites, she ate the sweet phyllo dough separately from the savory chicken filling. Also, I could be wrong, but was this supposed to be a French-Moroccan version of chicken pot pie? I may be way off base or over-simplifying the dish, but it really did seem like that to me and Psychology Gamer. I wonder if this could be made with a basic pie dough or even puff pastry instead. For my tastes, the phyllo dough didn’t hold up against the chicken filling and the delicious sauce. I’m not sure if I’ll make this again for the simple fact that phyllo dough is not my friend right now. And, that’s a shame because the filling is so delicious!Make sure to check out other bloggers’ thoughts and results of this dish at French Fridays with Dorie. As usual, the recipe for this dish can be found in Dorie Greenspan’s Around My French Table: More Than 300 Recipes from My Home to Yours.


35 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Betty @ scrambled hen fruit
    Jan 28, 2011 @ 00:16:08

    HaHa! I had the same feelings about the phyllo dough! I just pulled mine out of the oven and it smells really good though- I may forgive it once I’ve tasted it. 🙂

  2. Andrew
    Jan 28, 2011 @ 00:58:40

    It looks tasty. Phyllo dough sounds difficult to work with, maybe I will try to make something with it also and see how it goes. If anything my trying would give people a laugh.

  3. Jessica
    Jan 28, 2011 @ 01:03:42

    You sound serious about the phyllo dough. You could use the rest to make spanakopita. Because of your post, I want to see if store clerks here know what saffron is.

  4. Cher
    Jan 28, 2011 @ 07:03:43

    Too cute! This was my first time with the phyllo as well – definitely had some breakage. I cheated and didn’t cut out a circle on top (I just tucked everything in…). I also used up all of the sheets in the package just to be done with them – which made for a “crustier” version.
    Glad you survived!

  5. Ker-Yng
    Jan 28, 2011 @ 08:49:19

    You are brave to make this in one sitting! I wanted to give myself lots of time with the phyllo dough so I made the chicken ahead. My dough cracked all over though, your ‘pie’ looks good and neat! I love the filling too!

  6. Trevor Sis Boom
    Jan 28, 2011 @ 09:34:16

    I have always hated phylo. I haven’t made this but will try this weekend if the weather is bad. I usually dial back the ‘sweet’ on stuff like this and will definitely do that thanks to your input.

  7. Mary
    Jan 28, 2011 @ 09:55:03

    You are so right…phyllo is super annoying and I hated it too…we should make up a brand that is easy to work with..I bet it would make a ton of money!

  8. Jessica of My Baking Heart
    Jan 28, 2011 @ 09:58:47

    I almost always have phyllo rip when I’m working with it – no worries! Your b’stilla looks wonderful. Too bad it wasn’t everything you were expecting!

  9. beth@thescreenporch
    Jan 28, 2011 @ 10:18:30

    Your Bistilla looks Yummy (no pun intended) Phyllo is a pain in the arsss but I find it quite forgiving as it always comes out cracked anyway. Love your post as usual. Wish I was your sis. B:)

  10. vanillastrawberryspringfields
    Jan 28, 2011 @ 10:41:25

    Oh Yummmyyy C , how sweet to read this post , i loveddd reading how u got here!
    Saffron steeped in warm water gives the most wonderful hue i loveee!
    I m looking forward to some Spanish saffron:-)

    Well i did it on 2 days coz i lovee those afternoon pics , its easier 🙂
    So missing this today .but i have both the sheets and filo and though my v first time with these i sure aint gng to give up , yeah i did have breakages too , despite the package sayn that its soft when completely thawed!

    U did wonderful to do this in one go , yeah all that buttering , i used more than a stick u know and u?

    But these are total melt in ur mouth i say!
    I didn cut the circle at all , jus laid it and tucked it in:-) he he he!!

    Happy weekend to ya babe!

  11. Mary
    Jan 28, 2011 @ 10:59:32

    It really is a bother when a recipe fails to deliver in the way you anticipate. I must say the sandwich sounds wonderful and that first photo is lovely. Does the filling really need to be wrapped or could it be served over rice or another grain? Just random thoughts :-). Have a wonderful day. Blessings…Mary

  12. Ronda
    Jan 28, 2011 @ 11:08:13

    Oooo…it looks like it came out well. I had planned to use pheasant for this dish, but well things did not work out.

  13. Sarah
    Jan 28, 2011 @ 11:28:47

    My phyllo ripped a lot as well. I figured no one would notice once it was all baked, and no one did! We loved this at our house, and I would definitely make it again!

  14. Miss Anthropist
    Jan 28, 2011 @ 12:17:50

    This looks SO delicious! Awesome job!

  15. SoupAddict
    Jan 28, 2011 @ 13:14:31

    I made mine without the phyllo (not because of it’s finicky nature, but because I don’t like things that resemble meat pies). You should try it that way and serve it over rice – it’s much more doable dish (if less authentic). Good work, though!

  16. betsy
    Jan 28, 2011 @ 13:52:05

    I definitely think this is French-Moroccan pot pie. Good call! I had a hard time with the fillo too, but once buttered, it seems to be somewhat forgiving, sort of like a bandage. I think this would be similar enough with puff pastry, and less involved. I’m noting down that idea. Didn’t it make the kitchen smell great?

  17. Anne-Marie
    Jan 28, 2011 @ 14:27:43

    I totally agree about the phyllo! Pain in the buttinsky. I’ll try something else next time. Agree with Betsy that it made the kitchen (the whole house!) smell great.

  18. ComeUndone
    Jan 28, 2011 @ 16:09:07

    I sympathize with your frustration for phyllo dough. Experience helps as do having everything at the ready. I basically have 2 half sheet rimless cookie sheet side by side. One for the unused phyllo covered with tea towel, the other is my work area for brushing butter/cutting/layering. Clean up was a breeze.

    Good idea on crumbling saffron into a bit of liquid first. I did the same with a spoonful of warm chicken broth.

  19. Mary
    Jan 28, 2011 @ 16:48:20

    It looks wonderful, but it’s too bad you didn’t love it. Working with phyllo can be fiddly, but it usually comes out well in the end. I missed this one, but am planning to make next week’s recipe this weekend, so I actually get around to it for once!

  20. Cakelaw
    Jan 28, 2011 @ 17:07:39

    Working with filo is always a pain. Mine actually behaved OK – but I made the misake of cutting the sheets in half to make it easier to work with, which then meant they didn’t cover the pan properly. Oh well, it was easier to work with 🙂 Your pie looks a treat – and I am glad you enjoyed the mix of flavours, even if it wasn’t your sister’s cup of tea.

  21. Elaine
    Jan 28, 2011 @ 18:00:14

    I also had such a time with the phyllo! I love that you can see the layers of the phyllo in your photos. It looks great!

  22. Krissy
    Jan 28, 2011 @ 20:28:47

    Well, for all your distress with the filo, your pie looks great! Enjoyed reading your post.

  23. Allison
    Jan 28, 2011 @ 21:30:21

    This was my first time with filo too! Good for you to do the waxpaper and tea towel thing. I couldn’t be bothered. I just worked fast and I found the more confident I was the less the dough ripped.

  24. Me
    Jan 28, 2011 @ 22:13:15

    a) Love the code names!

    b) All that aroma is making me dizzy just reading it!!

    c) You can make spanikopita with the remaining phyllo… it is THE BEST!!! However, in the future, you can find in non-frozen phyllo in specialty markets – definitely better to work with and tastes better!

  25. steph (whisk/spoon)
    Jan 29, 2011 @ 06:48:03

    i made this one and thought it was really good. didn’t post it tho, b/c my photos were terrible! i’d never know you had phyllo trouble…it looks perfect!

  26. Karen
    Jan 29, 2011 @ 14:36:55

    This is a really fun and informative post! 🙂 I didn’t mind working with the phyllo dough but I have worked with it before. My kids hated it.

  27. stephirey
    Jan 29, 2011 @ 19:03:49

    I’m so glad someone else is on the outs with their filo dough! I actually called mine some very bad names. It really pissed me off!! But, I got the last laugh by eating it! Loved this dish. I think the chicken over rice, without the dough would be terrific too. Thanks for the great post!

  28. sanyaliving
    Jan 30, 2011 @ 05:34:35

    Oh my! Your b’stilla looks fantastic!
    I agree with you about the phyllo not being enough for the filling, we were just saying at home that something more sturdy might do it better justice!

  29. Trevor Sis Boom
    Jan 30, 2011 @ 11:30:15

    Hey, finally got mine up. I didn’t have much to say about it but only ’cause my mouth was full!

  30. Allison
    Jan 31, 2011 @ 01:25:20

    Another Stylish Blogger Award for you! I know you just got one, but I love your blog! You rock sista!

  31. Liz
    Jan 31, 2011 @ 15:26:53

    You are so cute with all your code names…they make me smile! I was out of town for this challenge…the phyllo didn’t scare me, but the cinnamon and sugar did! On to February…I think the frittata will be good!!

  32. blackbookkitchendiaries
    Jan 31, 2011 @ 17:10:35

    i simply adore this dish! looks really delicious:)

  33. pavithra
    Feb 04, 2011 @ 10:00:19

    I love this dish but I make veggie version.. this is absolutely yumm 😉

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