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Cocktail Bisteeyas

A bisteeya is a Moroccan main course pie with complex flavors that are both sweet and savory. Rather than making the classic family-sized pastry, this recipe brings the intriguing flavors to a cocktail tidbit. Although tradition calls for it to be made with pigeon, chicken is an excellent substitute.

Makes about 36 pieces
Cooking Time: About 1 hour


1/4 cup butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
3/4 cup minced red onion
1 tablespoon minced garlic
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
Tiny pinch saffron threads
Cayenne pepper to taste
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1-1/2 cups chicken stock
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon freshly grated lemon zest
3 large eggs, at room temperature, beaten
4 cups minced cooked chicken meat
1/2 cup toasted slivered almonds
2 tablespoons chopped preserved lemons
6 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar
1-lb box frozen phyllo dough, thawed according to manufacturer’s directions
1 cup melted unsalted butter


Organize your ingredients.

Heat the butter and oil in a large frying pan over medium heat.  Add the onion and garlic, season with salt and pepper to taste, and fry, stirring frequently with a wooden spoon, for about 5 minutes or until the onions have begun to color.

Add 1 teaspoon of the cinnamon along with the coriander, ginger, saffron, and cayenne, stirring to blend.  Beat in the flour and when blended, add the broth along with the lemon juice and zest and bring to a simmer.  Whisk in the eggs and simmer for about 10 minutes or just until the mixture is almost dry and the eggs curdle somewhat.

Remove from the heat and stir in the chicken, almonds, and 2 tablespoons of the confectioners’ sugar.  Set aside to cool.

When ready to prepare, preheat the oven to 350 º F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.  Set aside.

Combine the remaining 1/4 cup of confectioners’ sugar with the remaining 1 teaspoon cinnamon.  Place in a fine mesh sieve and set aside on a plate.

Working quickly so that the dough does not dry out, cut the phyllo dough into 6-inch squares, keeping the dough and the dough squares covered with a damp kitchen towel.

Place the melted butter in a medium bowl. 

Make one bisteeya at a time so that the dough stays damp and pliable.  Place one phyllo square on a clean, flat work surface.  Using a pastry brush, lightly coat with the melted butter.  Repeat using 5 additional phyllo squares, piling one on top of the other to make a stack of 6 buttered phyllo squares.  Place about 1/4 cup of the chicken mixture in the center of the stacked squares, leaving about an inch around the edges.  Using the pastry brush, lightly coat the edges with melted butter.  Fold the phyllo up and over to enclose the filling. 

Turn the packet upside down so that the seam-side is on the bottom and place, seam-side down, on the prepared baking sheets.  Lightly coat the top with melted butter and sprinkle with the reserved cinnamon-sugar mixture.  Continue making bisteeyas until all of the filling has been used.

Place in the preheated oven and bake for about 20 minutes or until golden and crisp. Remove from the oven and serve hot, warm, or at room temperature.

Cook’s Tips:

The bisteeyas may be made in advance and stored, frozen, in a single layer for up to 1 month.

Preserved lemons may be purchased at Middle Eastern stores, specialty food shops, and some supermarkets.

You might need 2 lemons for the juice.  If so, zest both lemons before juicing and freeze any extra zest in 1 teaspoon increments for future use.

Healthy Options: 

Replace the butter with olive oil.  The finished bisteeya will not be as traditional or rich, but it will still be delicious.

Suggested Drink Pairings: 

Chai martini, fresh mint tea, or Sauvignon blanc

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