B’stilla: Moroccan Pigeon Pie
This sumptuous Moroccan starter—a spiced poultry pie enriched with scrambled eggs and decorated with ground almonds, sugar, and cinnamon—is typically served at weddings and other festive occasions. Traditionally the pastry known as warqa and bone-in pigeon are used to make b’stilla, but phyllo and chicken thighs, quail, or Cornish game hen make excellent substitutes.
1⁄2 cup blanched almonds
3 lb. /about 1,5 kilos pigeon (5-6) or bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs
3 cups chicken stock
3 tbsp. olive oil
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 medium yellow onion, minced
1 tbsp. ras el hanout
1⁄2 tsp. crushed red chilly flakes
1⁄4 tsp. saffron threads, mixed with 1 tsp. water
3 tbsp. minced cilantro
3 tbsp. minced parsley
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
6 tbsp. unsalted butter, melted, plus more
8 sheets phyllo dough
1⁄4 cup confectioners’ sugar
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
Toast almonds in a 4-qt. saucepan over medium-high, 4–5 minutes; let cool. Transfer to a food processor and pulse until finely ground; set aside. Add pigeons and stock to pan; boil. Reduce heat to medium-low; cook, covered, until pigeons are cooked through, 40–45 minutes. Using tongs, transfer pigeons to a cutting board; let cool, then shred meat, discarding skin and bones. Simmer cooking liquid over medium heat until reduced to 1 cup, about 30 minutes. Let cool and whisk in eggs; set sauce aside.
Wipe pan clean and add oil; heat over medium-high. Cook garlic and onion until golden, 8–10 minutes. Add ras el hanout, chilly flakes, and saffron mixture; cook 1–2 minutes and remove from heat. Stir in reserved almonds, shredded meat, and sauce, the cilantro, parsley, salt, and pepper; set filling aside.
Heat oven to 400 F°/200 C. Grease a 9″ spring form pan with butter. Lay 1 sheet phyllo on a work surface and brush with melted butter. Fit into pan, allowing corners to hang over the edges. Repeat with another sheet phyllo. Spread 1⁄3 filling over dough. Repeat process of layering twice more. Fold corners of phyllo over filling. Top with remaining 2 sheets buttered phyllo; tuck corners around sides of pan, encasing the filling. Bake until golden and filling is set, 30–35 minutes. Let cool slightly, then unmold; dust with confectioners’ sugar and cinnamon.