This Moroccan poultry pie is served as a starter at festive occasions such as weddings. Traditionally made with squab (pigeon), it combines sweet and savory flavors in one delicious dish.
Learn much more about this dish by visiting People Like Pie, the cooking class that inspired this recipe.
Serves 4-6 as a meal, more as a starter.
1/4 teaspoon saffron threads
1/2 cup blanched slivered almonds
3 lbs squab (about 5-6 birds), or 5 chicken thighs, bone-in, skin-on
3 cups lightly salted chicken stock or broth
3 Tablespoons olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, diced small
4 fat cloves of garlic, minced
1 Tablespoon ras el hanout
1/2 teaspoon crushed red chile flakes
3 Tablespoons minced cilantro
3 Tablespoons minced parsley
1/4 teaspoon coarse salt
Ground black pepper to taste
7 Tablespoons unsalted butter
Flour for dusting the pan
9-10 sheets phyllo dough at room temperature, still in the packaging (plus a few more just in case)
1/4 cup powdered sugar
1 Tablespoon ground cinnamon
This recipe is written for using a spingform pan, so it can be unmolded before serving. If you don't have a springform pan, you can use a pie pan, but be aware that it may not accommodate all three layers and you may need to adjust cooking times accordingly. And instead of unmolding, you would just serve it in the pie pan, of course.
1. Place the saffron threads in a small glass dish with 1 teaspoon very warm water. Stir to combine and set aside.
2. Choose a 4 quart saucepan or pot in which to make the filling. Put this dry pan over medium high heat and add the almonds to it, tossing them for 4-5 minutes as needed to toast them until browned and fragrant. Pour the almonds onto a plate to cool while you work.
3. Add the chicken stock and squab or chicken thighs to the same pan. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, then turn heat to medium-low to maintain a simmer until poultry is cooked through, about 40-45 minutes. Transfer poultry to a plate to cool.
4. Bring the stock back up to a boil over medium-high heat and allow it to reduce to 1 cup. While the stock reduces, remove and discard the skin and bones from the poultry and shred the meat. When the stock has reduced, pour it into a measuring cup to confirm you have 1 cup and set aside. Do not skim the fat.
5. Add the olive oil to the pan and warm over medium heat. Add the onions and cook, stirring as needed to prevent sticking, until soft and golden, about 6-8 minutes. Add the garlic and stir until fragrant. Add the ras el hanout, chile flakes and saffron mixture and cook for 1-2 minutes, then remove the pan from heat and set aside.
6. Whisk the eggs in a large bowl until frothy. Stir the reserved stock to incorporate the fat into the liquid, then, while whisking the eggs continuously, gradually pour a steady stream of broth into the eggs until it has all been incorporated and you have formed an emulsified sauce. Set aside.
7. Pour the cooled almonds into a food processor and pulse until finely ground.
8. Put the pan back over medium heat and stir in the almonds, shredded meat, egg sauce, cilantro, parsley, salt and pepper. Bring to a simmer while using a rubber or wooden spatula to loosen any flavorful bits that have become stuck to the bottom of the pan. Remove from heat and allow to cool to room temperature.
Make ahead note: You can make this filling mixture a day or two ahead and keep it refrigerated until you are ready to fill the pie. The flavor will continue to develop nicely as it sits.
9. When you are ready to build and bake the pie, preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Grease and flour the springform pan using up to 1 Tablespoon of the butter. Melt the remaining butter and set aside.
10. Set up a workspace (such as your kitchen table), keeping the phyllo dough in its packaging while you get everything else ready: greased and floured springform pan, filling mixture at room temperature, and melted butter with pastry brush. When you are ready to begin building the pie, remove the dough from its packaging and lay the stack of phyllo sheets on a large sheet of wax paper, with another sheet of wax paper on top. As you work, you will want to keep the unused sheets covered with wax paper so they don't dry out and become brittle.
11. Line the pan with a sheet of phyllo, working carefully to fit it into the contours of the pan, and allowing the extra to hang out. Follow with another sheet, placed at right angles to the first sheet. Brush the bottom and inside walls with melted butter, then follow with a third sheet, again at right angles. Spread about 1/3 of the filling mixture over the dough, then cover it with another sheet of phyllo. Brush with butter and add another sheet of phyllo. Spread another 1/3 of the filling over the dough, then cover with another sheet of phyllo. Brush with butter, add another sheet of phyllo and spread the final 1/3 filling mixture over the dough.
12. Carefully fold the extra dough that is hanging over the edges back over the filling, roughly one sheet at a time, dabbing it with melted butter as you go to hold the layers together. If the dough has dried a bit it may begin to break as you do this - that's okay. The point is to have several layers of buttered phyllo covering the filling in the end.
13. Place a sheet of phyllo over the pie, tuck it in a bit of it around the edges and remove any that resists tucking. Brush with butter and repeat, at right angles to the prior layer. Brush the top with butter, place the pie on a rimmed baking sheet and bake for 30-35 minutes, until the top is golden brown and you can hear the pie bubbling and sizzling.
14. Let the pie cool slightly on a rack, then remove the springform mold (see picture for an example using quiche to show how to do this easily). Place the pie on a serving dish and dust it with powdered sugar. Use the cinnamon to create designs on the pie as you like.
15. When you are ready to serve, be sure your guests see and appreciate the beautiful design you have created before you cut into it. Use a good-quality serrated knife in a back-and-forth motion to cut through the layers of phyllo and filling. As you cut each slice, you will disturb the sugar and cinnamon topping, which will begin to fall into the lower layers of the pie. This is perfectly fine, as the flavors are intended to combine deliciously.
Adapted from Moroccan Pigeon Pie at Saveur.com.