Moroccan food intrigues me with its exotic spices and happy melding of sweet and savory in unexpected places. My favorite dish in Morocco is the pastilla — a crunchy packet of long-simmered spiced poultry (often pigeon) and onions, eggs, and crunchy, sugared almonds.
I was fortunate to have chef Hicham Hassan of the Sofitel Fès Palais Jamaï show me how to make pigeon pastilla during my stay in Fes. Though he was classically trained in French cuisine, chef Hassan tells me he learned to make the best Moroccan food from the ladies in his kitchen, who were kind enough to give me hands-on instruction in this specialty.
*Note: Create a mixture of equal parts cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, and ground ginger.
Melt the butter in a skillet over medium heat. Add the almonds and sugar. Cook until toasted, about 10-12 minutes. Transfer to the bowl of a food processor and pulse just until roughly chopped. Set aside.
Melt the butter in the olive oil in a large pan over medium heat. Add the chicken, parsley, spices, saffron, salt, pepper, water, onion, and sugar. Cook until the chicken is tender and cooked through, about 1 ½ hours, turning occasionally.
Remove the chicken from the pan, set aside, and reduce the cooking liquid over high heat until it thickens. Once the chicken has cooled, skin the chicken and shred the meat. Add the eggs to the cooking liquid, and reduce heat to medium-low. Simmer until the eggs are cooked, stirring, about 3-5 minutes. Add the chicken to the mixture and stir to combine.
Place 2 phyllo squares on a plate. Add a dollop of the mixture (don't overfill) to the sheet, add a handful of almonds, and top with 2-3 more squares. Fold a corner in, and continue folding, working counterclockwise until you've created a round packet. Repeat to make all 6 pastilla.
Meanwhile, heat about ½-inch oil in a pan over medium heat. Fry each pastilla, flipping after 2-3 minutes. Drain on paper towels and sprinkle with powdered sugar and cinnamon. Serve warm.