Chicken BasteeyaRead the recipe for the “Chicken Basteeya,” from Bethany Kehdy’s Pomegranates & Pine Nuts (recipe below), and you’ll see a somewhat oddball collection of savory and sweet ingredients: chicken, ginger, almonds, confectioners’ sugar, cinnamon, orange blossom water, phyllo pastry. Read further, and you’ll understand that no special skills are necessary to assemble this “chicken soup in a pastry,” as I want to call it. Rolling the phyllo, here, requires no particular grace. So, I just did it…and we all enjoyed it.

Chicken Basteeya
Pomegranates & Pine Nuts
Serves 4

2 Tbsp. sunflower oil
1 onion, finely chopped
1 lb. 2 oz. chicken legs and thighs
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and grated
1/2 tsp. ground turmeric
4 eggs
1 handful cilantro, finely chopped
1 handful parsley, finely chopped
juice and zest of 1 small lemon
1 cup blanched almonds
3 Tbsp. confectioners’ sugar
1/8 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 Tbsp. orange blossom water
7 or 8 sheets phyllo pastry dough, thawed if frozen
5 Tbsp. unsalted butter, melted
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Heat the oil in a deep, heavy-bottomed skillet pan over medium heat. Add the onion and fry 5 minutes, or until soft and translucent.

Season the chicken with salt and pepper and add it to the pan. Sear 3 to 4 minutes, browning on both sides, then drain off any excess fat. Add the garlic, ginger and turmeric and cook 1 minute, or until aromatic, tossing the chicken to coat. Cover with 2 cups water and simmer 30 minutes, or until the chicken juices run clear when the thickest part of a thigh is pierced with the tip of a sharp knife.

Remove the chicken from the broth, leaving the broth in the pan, and set the chicken aside to cool in a bowl. Boil the chicken broth until it reduces by about half, then whisk in the eggs one at a time until the eggs and broth form a scramble. You might find you don’t need to use all the eggs. Set aside to cool.

Once the chicken is slightly cooler, shred the meat and discard the bones. Add the herbs and lemon zest and juice to the chicken.

Grind the almonds into a rough paste in a food processor, then mix in the confectioners’ sugar, cinnamon and orange blossom water and stir to combine. Add this to the chicken along with the egg mixture. Stir to combine. If convenient, you can prepare the recipe to this stage one day in advance.

Heat the oven to 400 degrees F. Remove the sheets of phyllo dough from their packaging and cover them quickly with a damp dish towel to stop them drying out. Working with one sheet at a time, evenly spoon 4 or 5 Tbsp. of the chicken mixture along the long edge of the dough. Roll the dough tightly into a long tube. Repeat with the remaining phyllo sheets and chicken mixture.

Transfer the phyllo rolls to a 12-inch square or round baking pan. Starting from the outer edge, add the phyllo rolls as you work inward to cover the bottom of the pan like a coiled snake. Drizzle the melted butter over the coiled dough and bake 25 to 30 minutes until golden brown. Lightly dust with cinnamon and confectioners’ sugar, then slice into bite-size pieces. Serve warm.

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You should know I like this kind of cooking: the kind where I can calmly follow easy steps and shred cooked chicken with my hands. You’re making an inelegant “stuffing” here. Whisk eggs into broth. Grind almonds in the food processor. I added 1 1/2 tsp. kosher salt and 1/2 tsp. black pepper to my stuffing. The scent of that orange blossom water is dizzying and magical. I enjoyed rolling the phyllo into stuffing-filled tubes. The dough forgives you and tears and so what.

I baked my pan of pastry tubes for 40 minutes, until golden. The final dusting of cinnamon and confectioners’ sugar only hinted at a slight sweetness, and that was nice.

Cauliflower TotsThe 400-degree oven was also ready to cook the “Cauliflower Tots,” from Skinny Taste, and these were crowd-pleasing favorites.

What’s not to love? Baked cheesy cauliflower patties.

I made 18 “tots” with this, doubling the size of each patty with a 2-Tbsp. measure. I added 1 tsp. kosher salt and 1/2 tsp. black pepper to my mix.

Be a hero and make these.

PRICES:
Onion = .51¢
Chicken Legs/Thighs (1.13 lbs.) = $3.11
Lemon = .37¢
Cauliflower = $5.62

PREP TIMES: dedicate more than two hours to the prep, reduction, and baking of the basteeya; cauliflower tots need less than an hour before you can eat them
TASTES:
basteeya is chicken soup in a pastry, with the slightest dusting of sweetness; cauliflower + cheddar can’t lose

Next time, I will cook the “Turkish Pomegranate-Glazed Lamb Chops and Carrots,” from Bruce Aidells’ Great Meat Cookbook, as realized by Katie at the Kitchen Door. Come back to my site next week to see a fine winter meal.