"Perhaps the most impressive of all the cookbook blogs are the three devoted to the 2004 edition of Gourmet magazine's "The Gourmet Cookbook" -- all 5¼ pounds and 1,300-odd recipes of it. Befitting this culinary Everest, all three writers are overachievers in their professional lives."

--Lee Gomes, The Wall Street Journal, May 28, 2008
"I should have told you before how much I've been enjoying reading your thoughts. You seem like such a great cook."

--Ruth Reichl, Editor-in-Chief of Gourmet Magazine, June 8 2008, comment on "Chocolate Velvet Ice Cream".

Friday, October 17, 2008

Individual B'stillas

Remember that Moroccan Spice Mix I made a few weeks ago?

Well, I used it to make one of the few remaining recipes in the Poultry chapter for my book group the other night--Individual B'Stillas.

This is one of those recipes that seemed too complicated to bother with (not least because it requires making your own spice blend), and what the heck are b'stillas anyway? The head notes tell us that traditionally it's an enormous pigeon or chicken pie. How many pigeons = one chicken? That's an equivalency you don't ever see in the back of cookbooks.

But here are some of the other reasons I was put off:

1. Phyllo is a pain in the ass.
2. It has sugar in it, and I dislike sweet/savory foods.
3. It makes a lot, and usually I'm cooking for not a lot of people.
4. It involves cooking, cooling and picking a chicken, and that's kind of a pain in the ass too.
5. It has saffron in it, and to me anything with saffron smells like dirty dish water.

But since I already had the spice mix done, and since I had picked the book All The Names by Jose Saramago, I wanted to cook something that would be sort of evocative either of the book or the author's home country (which is not Morocco, by the way, but who's paying attention?)

Individual B'stillas it was.

For anybody with experience with sauteing onions and cooking chicken, most of this was pretty straightforward. But there was one part of the recipe that had me reading very closely, and that's where you make something along the lines of straciatelli--you pour a thin stream of beaten eggs into boiling broth and stir til they're cooked. Then you drain the set eggs in a sieve, discarding the stock. These stock-cooked sort of scrambled eggs become part of the filling, mixed with shredded chicken, onions, and other good things (including almonds ground with sugar).

I have to confess here that I tossed this whole fun ball of cooking into my friend Moira's lap while I went to work. Well, not the whole thing--I did it up to the mix-the-filling part and stuff the phyllo part. Moira had never worked with phyllo but thought she could figure it out.

And here, I have to scold the recipe authors a little bit. My poor friend Moira could not work out at all how these were supposed to be rolled up. Like egg rolls? Letters? Triangles? She tried a variety of them (while making small talk with an unexpectedly early guest) and was at an utter and frustrated loss by the time I dashed in the door. A little diagram would have helped her out a lot--have some pity on the spatial learners of the world!

I needed to work fast, and so I didn't bother trying to make individual ones--I just took three sheets, layered and buttered them and rolled the thing up like a giant Cuban cigar. A little butter wash and a sprinkle of almond sugar and into the oven they went.

A virtue of this recipe is that they cook up fast--the filling is cooked already so really you're just baking the phyllo--a quick proposition.

How were they? OH MY GOD. They were so good, and I was possibly even twice as delighted because I wasn't expecting them to be good for all of the reasons I mentioned above. I LOVED the almond sugar inside and on the top. My book group loved them. Moira will never ever cook them again, but she loved them too. Everybody should give three cheers to Moira for being such a good sport.

Here's to us!
Who's like us?
Damn few!

Here's a photo that's not mine and by the way if you're looking for images or recipes online you won't find diddly under "b'stillas" except for this post and epicurious...you have to search for "bisteeya".

So here's a bisteeya from Gastroteca Online:

Ours were not quite as beautiful but I bet they tasted better.

P.S. I could not detect any saffron flavor(a plus for me) so if you don't have it and can't afford it, just leave it out--it's mostly a color thing anyway, I think.

1 comment:

Liz C said...

Dontcha just love it when a dish you have absolutely no hope for turns out to be a winner? Score!!