It’s risky to cook new things. Even though you want to. You really do. But you never know how it will turn out. Using new ingredients, new spices, new cooking methods, you never know if anyone will be willing to eat it. And you certainly don’t know if anyone will actually like it. So is it worth the risk?
Of course it’s worth the risk! But something that can actually help you get over the fear is to cook with a friend. Cooking with a friend is definitely more fun. Because together, you can be adventurous. Together you can choose a new recipe, or something you have always been afraid to make, or too intimidated to make by yourself. And then at least the risk of failure is reduced. Because together, it is doable. Especially if one of the friends has made it before.
So wanting to try a chicken pastilla, a Moroccan dish of shredded chicken and spices baked inside phyllo dough, I recruited a friend. She was willing and happy to cook with me, and even showed up at my house with all of the ingredients. (Yes, a good friend indeed!) The pastilla turned out delicious and not too difficult at all. As I would have never attempted it on my own, I appreciated the opportunity to learn to make something new. I wondered how many more recipes we could cook together, as it turned into quite the fun playdate.
The key to trying a new recipe, as always, is to thoroughly read the recipe from beginning to end. Then read it again. Make sure you know what you need to do before you start doing it. Next, gather all your ingredients together, measure them out and group them in the order in which they will be used. Trust me, a little work up front makes for a very smooth production. And don’t forget the friend!
With Purim dead ahead, take the risk and try something new. If you are hosting the seudah, chicken pastilla makes for an impressive and delicious starter. It’s also easy to make ahead of time to bring to someone else’s seudah. You can make it in individual portions, as described below, or as one larger pie, to be sliced. It would definitely make a wonderful and different addition to your Purim meal.
Chicken Pastilla (adapted from “The Kosher Gourmet”)
- 1 3½-pound raw chicken, cut up into pieces
- 4 medium onions, peeled and chopped
- ¼ C. vegetable oil
- 1 bunch parsley, chopped
- 4 cilantro sprigs, chopped
- 1 pinch saffron threads
- 1 tsp. ground black pepper
- 1 2-inch cinnamon stick
- ½ tsp. ground cloves
- ½ tsp. ginger
- ½ tsp turmeric
- 2 eggs, lightly beaten
- 1 C. blanched almonds, lightly toasted and coarsely chopped
- 2 Tbsp. sugar
- 1 lb. phyllo dough, at room temperature
- Confectioner’s sugar for dusting
- 1 Tbsp. ground cinnamon
In a heavy saucepot, combine chicken, onions, oil, parsley, cilantro, saffron, pepper, cinnamon stick, cloves, ginger and turmeric. Add 1 C. water and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat to medium; cover and simmer for 1 hour, or until chicken is cooked through.
Uncover and increase heat to high. Stir constantly until all liquid evaporates, about 5 minutes.
Remove pot from heat and discard cinnamon stick. Remove cooked chicken and set aside. Stir eggs into pot until they look set and mixture has thickened.
Remove skin from chicken and cut chicken into small pieces. Discard all skin, bones and gristle. In a large bowl, combine chicken and contents of pot. Add chopped almonds and sugar, mixing thoroughly.
Preheat oven to 375. On an oiled work surface, stack phyllo leaves flat. Cut crosswise into thirds. Work with one third at a time and leave the remaining dough covered with a damp towel. Take out 3 sheets at a time with the narrow end facing you. Brush top leaf with oil. Place 2 tablespoons filling in the center, and roll over. Fold sides toward center and continue to roll up all the way.
Place seam side down on greased baking pan. Repeat with remaining phyllo and chicken filling, always brushing top leaf with oil before filling. Brush tops of all the rolls with oil. Bake about 35 minutes, or until very lightly brown and crisp. Sprinkle with confectioners’ sugar and cinnamon. Serve hot.
By Rachel Berger