Friday, January 28, 2011

French Fridays with Dorie In Which I Ponder Phyllo: Bane of My Existence or Harbinger of Zen Meditation?

Well, and here we are again!  I tell you, I am loving this French Fridays with Dorie thing.  Everyone has been so wonderful and I am really enjoying being involved in something like this.  I joined this group because I was haphazardly going through the cookbook and I desired something a bit more ordered.  This?  Perfect!

This week: A Moroccan chicken potpie-ish dish called Chicken B'stilla.  I'll start off by saying that this is not out of my comfort zone.  It's more that I just don't make Moroccan food very often.

I read the P&Q post and saw that some people were asking about wine pairing.  Well, I contributed, though a bit late, and mentioned that I do like Rhône Varietals with Moroccan food--but not just any old Rhône varietal.  I prefer Mourvèdre first, then (maybe) Grenache.

I was thinking all about the wines and what would pair best, etc., and then I came up with MY BEST PLAN EVER!  Instead of going out to dinner like we were supposed to, I'd make the B'stilla one day earlier than planned AND I'd open up 3 or 4 different bottles of wine so we could compare!  Tell me: what is the downside here?

So, I made some phone calls and that became the plan.

(I'll leave the wine section for another post that is directly below this one.  Those who could care less about wine can just skip it.)

Thank goodness it was my at home day.  I started marinating the chicken, first mixing the onions and spices all together to really coat the onions, and then adding the chicken.  Also, any excuse to use my Staub casserole is fine by me:

Let me tell you, it smelled really good in my kitchen.

With the next step, when I braised the chicken, the aromas became more pronounced and I could even smell them outside (it was a lovely 75 degrees here, by the way).  Mmmmm.

I made the mixture of chicken and onions, and then made the sauce.  I followed Katrina's suggestion on the P&Q.  It's something I know to do, but would've just blindly followed the recipe anyway (yes, even after what happened with the cake last week).  She mentions that you need to temper the eggs, so as I madly whisked the eggs and honey I added in 1/3 of the broth reduction in a thin stream until it was all incorporated.  Then I added all of that in a thin stream to the rest of the reduction still in the hot pan on the stove.  That way, I didn't have any scrambling of the eggs when they were added to something that was super hot.  One more thing: I made sure my eggs were room temperature so that it would minimize the temp difference as much as possible.

Here is the sauce all mixed together, right before I started whisking it until the whisk "left tracks":
Yes, my stovetop is dirty.  I hang my head in shame.
Then, my chicken and sauce mixture.  At this point, I would've stopped and finished the rest the next day.  Instead, I carried on.  It was for science, right?  Well...the science of wine...?

Now, though.  Now is when we come to the philosophical questions inherent in any dish that uses phyllo/fillo/filo dough.  I think many of them are unanswerable.  For example: is there any package of phyllo dough that doesn't have at least one sheet that will rip no matter how careful you are?  If we find said perfect package, have we reached nirvana?  I, personally, have a love-hate relationship with the stuff.  I love it and its buttery, flaky goodness.  I hate it because there's always at least one sheet that rips no matter how carefully I do all of the damp towel, open like a book, whatever else that they tell us to do.  I love it because even with all of that it's fairly forgiving.  I hate it when I'm worried about it not being forgiving while I'm in the thick of preparing it.  Ultimately I have decided that I should approach it in a more zen-like manner.  Phyllo will do these things--it will rip and look ridiculously rumpled and unprofessional--and that is okay.  I shall take it in stride, but still remain focused.  In the end, I'd much rather contemplate phyllo and its issues than all of my regular stressors.  So, there it is.

With all of that said, I still got irritated.  HA!  Here's my finished B'stilla base, wherein 2--yes, 2 of the 4--of those be-damned sheets ripped!
I used the almonds.

And here's the pie-ish thingy before I did the top crust:

The next part was kind of fun!  I used a pan lid as a guide to cut a large circle for the top crust and tucked it in like making a bed.  Or something.
Here that is: 
With a light sprinkling of cinnamon-sugar just before going into the oven.
I then had to wait 40 minutes.  By this point, I think my husband had fallen asleep in front of the TV and I was starving.  Those of you in this group know--this is not really difficult to make, it just takes a lot of time!

But, then!  Oh, then!  The timer went off and it smelled sooo good.  And it was pretty.

While that cooled off for 5 minutes, and while my husband wandered in looking groggy (and then began salivating all over the pie) I made the lemon-steamed spinach recipe as a side.

Here's the plate as I was staving off the hungry beast behind me:

The result?  YUMMY!  The B'stilla is really a wonderful dish and it's so rich that you don't have to eat too much of it.  Also, that lemon-steamed spinach is really great.  I'm not a huge fan of steamed spinach, but this was the best I've ever had.

Now that's done, WHAT ABOUT THE WINE?  

You'll have to see the WINE POST!


  1. Your b'stilla browned perfectly on top! It looks so golden and flaky - beautiful! :)

  2. Loved the thought of spinach with this dish. So many great ideas, so little time in the kitchen! I admire everyone who took the time to cut a nice pretty circle for the top - I took the tuck approach...

  3. Oh... and we were in the negative 20's earlier this week. I would swoon to see 75...

  4. Love "the plan"...definitely no downside to opening multiple bottles of wine in my book. This was my "work at home day" where I pretended to be home working, but found much more enjoyment in cooking and photographing this dish all day. The filo thing worked out well for me, until it came time to "make the bed." I like the ruffled look around the edges, to the point I even added a few more sheets and scrunched them all up, rather than tucking in. I'm off to read about your wine selections. Go clean your stove ;-)

  5. Such meticulous work with the top layer of phyllo. Lovely!

  6. Looks fantastic! Like a work of art!

  7. You've outdone yourself. I've had a good bit of success with the phyllo brand I get at our Whole Foods. I can't remember the name for the life of me at the moment, but I can picture the package--it is like an aluminum takeout container (rectangular) with a cardboard top. There may be a red wheat motif on the package...Defour maybe? NO! DUFOUR (Thanks Google...close enough). Anyway, it rarely breaks on me.

    This looks amazing.

  8. It looks fantastic! The hardest part of the process for me was waiting for it to cook - it smells so wonderful at every stage.