Moroccan Meat Pie (Pastilla/Bisteeya)

Servings: 4-6
Total time: 2hours
Ingredients

2 chickens (about 4 1/2 lbs. of meat)
1/2 bunch parsley
3 lbs. onions
8 eggs
1 tsp cinnamon
1 1/2 tsp saffron (crushed saffron flowers)
12 oz. almonds (and oil to fry them)
1 cup sugar
salt and pepper to taste

Procedure

1. Put the whole chicken in a thick-bottomed saucepan with the salt, parsley, onion, pepper, saffron, cinnamon and sugar.

2. Add a small amount of water, and add more if there is no liquid left before the chicken is cooked. Cook over medium heat, stirring from time to time.

3. Remove the chicken when cooked, any empty it of any stuffing which may have gotten inside.

4. Allow the stuffing to cook longer, stirring constantly until all the water has evaporated.

5. Add the eight beaten eggs and stir constantly, then remove from heat.

6. Sting the chicken meat by hand.

7. Skin the almonds and fry them in oil until they begin to color, then turn into a strainer.

8. Crush the almonds coarsely in a mortar or through a vegetable sieve, using the widest grid. Mix with a little sugar. Add three tablespoons of the oil used to fry the almonds to the stuffing, putting the remainder of the oil aside.

9. To complete the bisteeya you can use a round, tin-lined copper utensil ("tbsil dyal bisteeya") with a diameter of about 19 inches. Oil the bottom and sides of this or a baking dish.

10. Cover the dish with a first layer of twelve sheets of pastry, shiny side down, overlapping them and sticking them with beaten egg yolks. Make sure that the outer sheets hang over the edge of the dish. Cover with a second layer to strengthen, then a layer of stuffing, another layer of pastry (but without going over the edges of the dish), then the pieces of chicken. Sprinkle with the crushed almonds. Fold back towards the center the pastry which overlaps the edge of the dish, sticking them together with beaten egg yolks. Place two more layers of pastry, shiny surface up, overlapping them again and with the edges hanging over the edge of the dish. Tuck these edges under the bottom of the bisteeya as if making a bed.

11. Brush surface and edges with egg yolks and oil remaining from the almonds. You now have a flat pie about two inches thick.

12. Cook the bisteeya in a moderate oven for about 20 minutes or until golden brown.

13. Turn out onto a baking sheet, and about 15 to 20 minutes before serving, brush with oil again, put back in the oven and brown the other side.

14. To serve, turn the bisteeya out onto a large plate, sprinkle the top liberally with powdered sugar and finish off with fine criss-crossing lines of powdered cinnamon.