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How does bisteeya make any sense?

Anyone ever had it? Or tried the recipe featured on Chow just now? http://www.joepastry.com/2011/making-...

I want to try it but I just can't make chicken, scrambled eggs and cinnamon toasted almonds go together in my head.

I'm thinking maybe I'd try the roasted root veggie variation first time out for less Euro-centric clash of savory and sweet. But am I just being a weenie about this?

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  1. It may not make any sense in your head, but it is absolutely delicious. I love it, and have been thinking about making it again. I used to make it, make some kabobs, and I love to serve the salads with it. You should try it, it is not as hard as you think.

    12 Replies
    1. re: paprkutr

      Does it make sense for me to try it with winter squash, turnips and/or parsnips first? Or should I just develop a sense of adventure and go for it with the chicken?

      Apart from the culinary chaos of it -- said with full acknowledging of my sweet-is-sweet-and-chicken-is-savory bias -- I'm not in the least intimidated by the construction. Sounds very do-able. Just concerned about it being so out of the realm of my food experiences.

      1. re: rainey

        NO, no, no. The veggie version just sounds like a schizophrenic pumpkin pie. Go for the real thing -- you'll be glad you did.

        It's actually supposed to be made with pigeon or squab, but dark meat chicken will do in a pinch.

        Do you have a Moroccan restaurant in your area where you can just try some before you invest half a day in making one and having it possibly not come out right?

        1. re: acgold7

          Nope. Nothing Moroccan that I can think of that's why it would be incumbent on me to do this in order to have the unique experience.

          OK. I can remember having the same reservations the first time I put cinnamon on ground lamb to make pastitsio. If you guys tell me I'm holding myself back I'm gonna go for it!

          1. re: rainey

            There are many middle-eastern and Mediterranean dishes that blend sweet and savory and are fantastic. This is stellar and I think you'll love it. Certainly it is no weirder than General Tso's Chicken.

            1. re: rainey

              Yep, you're holding yourself back. B'steeya is a tricky dish to execute but absolutely wonderful, especially since it mixes two ingredients that aren't typically associated with each other: sweet cinnamon pastry and a curry-esque chicken/pigeon.

              Go to it!

              1. re: biggreenmatt

                "Tricky"? What do I need to be careful about to get the best results. The Chow recipe doesn't look difficult.

                1. re: rainey

                  It doesn't look all that difficult, actually. But some people are put off by messing with phyllo dough and I guess you could overcook the eggs or the poultry. Others balk at anything with more than two steps. But you seem pretty accomplished and confident, so go for it and let us know what you think.

                  1. re: rainey

                    It can get soggy, so drain everything well before you layer it in the phyllo.

                    1. re: sr44

                      Thanks for that useful bit of info.

                      I've gotten the stuff and I might be able to do it tomorrow.

              2. re: acgold7

                I was just thinking about making a batch the other day... I used a Gourmet Magazine recipe for a special event back while I was catering and loved every little bite! I think this CHOW recipe is worth a shot!

              3. re: rainey

                There's nothing odd about it if it's prepared well. Flavors balance nicely.

                1. re: rainey

                  As the others have said, go for the gold. It is really good, I just put powdered sugar on top with cinnamon. Don't worry, just do it and I bet you will love it. As I said above, incorporated with someother foods, especially the salads eaten with bread and your hands. Great. Let us know how it goes.

              4. I've tried it once and it was fabulous. Definitely give it a go!

                1. This is very similar to a Chinese mooncake made with shredded beef (or bbq meat) and nuts. Sweet and savory, and all wrapped up in a flaky pastry like crust.

                  1. I get why it seems like it won't work, but there is something addictive about the sweet and savory combination. Try it!

                    1. Rainey, it's not as sweet as teriyaki chicken, nor duck a l"orange, unless you make it that way. The most famous Moroccan restaurant in SF, Azizza, puts a lot of sugar in theirs, which I don't like as much as all the other Moroccan versions I've tried which only garnishes with a little sugar.

                      It's also not tricky to make, if you're already familiar with filo dough. Just be sure to drain the chicken and eggs so you don't get it soggy. Have fun - it's delicious.

                      1. Now, If you are in my area I will be happy to help you put one together and join you in eating it. If not. I say get a pal to help you out and have fun eating the beast! It is a treat to be shared!!!

                        1. I am not big fan of bisteeya particularly because I find it too sweet (which is my complaint with Moroccan cuisine generally), but if you find you like this combination, you might want to try Turkish chicken pudding next. Tavuk gogsu, being a dessert, works better with my palate.

                          1. It sounds weird to an American palate, but there's plenty of cuisines (particularly Middle Eastern) that combine meat, spices and sweet. Bisteeya is delicious. I've made a variation using spring roll wrappers - shrimp bisteeya spring rolls. Great party appetizer.

                            1. i've seved it at parties and the plates get licked clean. you can adjust the sweetness factor to your preferences, too, ya know?

                              1. One of my most favorite foods, and one that also goes over well at parties. I usually use Claudia Roden's recipe, which doesn't call for as much sugar as the linked recipe does, just a dusting with powdered sugar and cinnamon. That said, some people just don't care for sweet/savory combinations at all.
                                If you are comfortable working with filo dough, the only tricky part might be the eggs. You don't really want scrambled eggs. Adding your broth to the eggs helps make a nice custardy consistency.
                                The root vegetable version actually sounds horrible to me! To each her own, right?

                                2 Replies
                                1. re: L.Nightshade

                                  You know, a custard effect sounds more attractive but in the tutorial on the Chow link it's clearly scrambled eggs mixed in with the chicken.

                                  How do you achieve the custard effect? Are you putting the egg mixture into the phyllo as a liquid to set up in baking? Sounds like that would undermine the crispness of the phyllo. Or is it more a very soft set scramble? Or something else altogether that I'm not appreciating?

                                  1. re: rainey

                                    Well, I don't know who Joe Pastry is, but I trust Claudia Roden.
                                    My notes from her recipe state to mix stock and the eggs and stir over low heat until creamy and nearly set. That doesn't sound scrambled to me. Mine always seemed custardy, but you might call it a soft scramble. My Moroccan friends who prepared Bstilla always warned me NOT to scramble the eggs.
                                    Roden also has a quick bstilla recipe without eggs, which might be in the Arabesque cookbook.
                                    In addition to making the traditional big pie, I frequently put it in little filo triangles, great finger food for appetizers or party munching.

                                2. I've never made it but want to. Had it in a restaurant (served with sauteed wild mushrooms on top) and it was one of the best things I've ever eaten. The cinnamon and sugar were there, but only lightly.

                                  1. Watch some youtube videos - cooking with alia is a good one, she's moroccan.

                                    The stuff is actually good, we invested our time and effort and made it once and craved it every since.

                                    3 Replies
                                      1. re: rainey

                                        You could try this, it is spelled "Bastilla" from Alia, but I think it's the same stuff.

                                    1. Try thinking of it as a brunch dish. I'm pretty sure it's an appetizer in Morocco, but I've served it as a brunch main course to people who were a little weirded out by the combo, and they loved it. Brunch is a good meal to mix sweet and savory things. BTW, I use less sugar than most recipes call for, but you do need some.

                                      1. I love bastilla. If you'd like to try a simpler, Americanized take on the dish, this recipe (which I've made a few times) gives you an basic idea of what bastilla tastes like, without all the time & effort. http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/foo...

                                        1 Reply
                                        1. re: prima

                                          I almost always make this as filo triangles for cocktail parties. Having the powdered sugar on top makes it a bit messy as finger food (who wants their Little Black Dress covered with white powder?) , so my trick is to grind up toasted almonds with powdered sugar and cinnamon (I use Mexican here--a little less assertive) and sprinkle the "right" amount (not too sweet) on the strip of buttered filo before I fold it up into a triangle. Helps keep the pastry light, and it is a lot less messy to eat with your fingers.

                                          For those worried about too much sweetness, just use less powdered sugar.

                                          I use about 1/3 squab and 2/3 chicken thighs myself--all squab is a little heavy for my palate. When squab was lacking I have thrown in some chicken livers instead--adds a similar taste in my mind.

                                          I am a big fan of adding in some chopped preserved lemon to the mix.

                                          Finally, if you are making it as triangles, make sure to salt the filling very well--it should be just a little saltier than you would choose if you were just eating it. But once wrapped in the bland filo, the salt kicks in and makes it perfect.