There used to be a Moroccan restaurant in Seattle called Mamounia, located on Capitol Hill. My high school friends and I went there once or twice. It was so long ago, I can’t remember if we went when were actually in high school or as young adults.
Going to Mamounia felt very exotic! There were belly dancers, and we sat on cushions on the floor and ate with our fingers. As I recall, we weren’t very adventurous with our menu selections…three out of four of us picked the “safest” item: chicken.
Eating at Mamounia was a multi-course affair. The thing I remember most about eating there was something called Bastilla. It was a savory chicken pie wrapped in phyllo, and the top was sprinkled with cinnamon and powdered sugar. The whole pie was set in the middle of the table and we dug into it with our hands. I loved the flaky phyllo crust and the contrast between the sweet cinnamon-sugar topping and the savory filling. Off and on over the years I have thought about this Bastilla and wanted to go back to Mamounia just for that.
Imagine my delight when I found a recipe called Chicken B’Stilla in Around My French Table! I was even more excited when it was picked as a selection for French Fridays with Dorie. Wait! A Moroccan recipe in a French cookbook? Just like in the United States, French home cooks are inspired by flavors from around the world, with Moroccan flavors being fairly common.
Making Chicken B’Stilla is pretty involved process with a lot of steps. The smells of the spices (saffron, cinnamon, ground coriander) while cooking were heavenly! I have never enjoyed working with phyllo, and making this did nothing to endear me to it. Let’s just say it’s a good thing there was a round piece of phyllo placed on top, otherwise my pie would have not been pretty!
It’s been so long since I ate Bistilla at Mamounia that I can’t remember the flavors well enough to compare to the B’Stilla I made. I do recall a stronger cinnamon-sugar flavor. If I make this again, I may sprinkle cinnamon and powdered sugar on the pie after baking rather than before. I really liked the flavors of my pie and the crispy, flaky phyllo crust. Dorie mentions in the book that this dish is best served the day it is made. While I agree that the crust was a little better the first night (though I found it crisped up pretty nicely while reheating), I actually enjoyed it even more the second night. Perhaps the flavors had a chance to blend a bit.
Overall, a fun trip down memory lane!