Chicken Bistilla
6 to 8 servings

This phyllo-enclosed mixture of shredded chicken, chopped almonds and spices marries savory and sweet elements and can be an appetizer or a main course. The dish hails from Morocco, where it’s often made with pigeon.

Serve slices of the bistilla with a simple green salad. Adapted from “A Month in Marrakesh,” by Andy Harris (Hardie Grant Books, 2011).


2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil (about 1 cup)

1 medium red onion, sliced thin (about 1 tablespoon)

2 cloves garlic, cut into very thin slices

11/2 teaspoons saffron threads

1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

11/4 teaspoons ground ginger

1 teaspoon ground coriander

11/4 teaspoons ground cinnamon

3/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

12/3 cups homemade or no-salt-added chicken broth, warmed

Freshly squeezed juice of 1 orange (at least 5 tablespoons)

1/3 cup golden raisins, soaked in warm water for 10 minutes

About 1 cup (3 ounces) almonds, finely chopped

2 large eggs, beaten

13/4 pounds cooked chicken, shredded

Sea salt

Freshly ground black pepper

4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted, for brushing, plus more as needed

12 sheets phyllo pastry (may substitute 8 sheets warkha pastry; see NOTE)

Confectioners’ sugar, for dusting


Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. When the oil shimmers, add the onion and garlic and cook, stirring frequently, until softened, about 6 minutes. Add the saffron, cloves, ginger, coriander, cinnamon and nutmeg and cook, stirring continuously, for 2 to 3 minutes. Add the broth, increase the heat to medium-high and bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium-low and cook until the sauce has thickened and the liquid has reduced by half, 10 to 15 minutes, adjusting the heat so that the broth is barely bubbling.

Remove the saucepan from the heat. Add the orange juice, raisins and almonds, and stir to combine. Stir in the eggs and shredded chicken, mixing well. Allow the mixture to cool, then season it with salt and pepper to taste.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and use a little butter to lightly grease an 81/2- or 9-inch round straight-sided baking dish. Place the phyllo sheets in a stack and cover them with a piece of plastic wrap to prevent them from drying out.

One at a time, brush 6 sheets of phyllo dough with the melted butter and place them buttered side down in the prepared dish, staggering them so that they cover the bottom of the dish fairly evenly. Extend them out evenly over the sides of the dish. Spoon the chicken mixture into the dish and level it, then top with the remaining phyllo sheets, buttering each one and arranging them buttered side down so that the filling is completely covered. Pull the overhanging edges of the pastry sheets up and bend them toward the middle of the dish, so that they crimp up a little during baking. Brush the top of the bistilla with melted butter. Bake for 20 to 30 minutes or until the pastry is golden.

Let the bistilla cool for 3 minutes before transferring it to a serving plate. Dust with confectioner’s sugar and serve.

NOTE: If using warkha, or brick, pastry, use 4 sheets of buttered pastry on the bottom of the bistilla and 4 sheets on the top.

NUTRITION | Per serving (based on 8): 480 calories, 36 g protein, 26 g carbohydrates, 26 g fat, 8 g saturated fat, 160 mg cholesterol, 300 mg sodium, 3 g dietary fiber, 6 g sugar

Recipe tested by Jane Touzalin; e-mail questions to