Saturday, November 9, 2013

NEW RECIPE: Easy Mulled Apple Cider with Merguez-Chicken Pastilla

© Constantine William Spyrou

I really, really love fall because the weather starts to cool down, the general number of bees around in Davis goes down (which is good for me because I HATE bees), and apple cider comes back into season. Apple cider is easily one of my favorite warm beverages because it just warms you really well and has a great amount of spice to it that you can really taste. This dish is dedicated to apple cider and pairing it with great and delicious food. 

This pairing might seem a little bit strange, as I've chosen a Moroccan classic dish to go alongside this American classic drink. However, Chicken Pastilla, which is a lot like a chicken pot pie but done way better with levels of flavor, is a great companion to the apple cider because of its warmth, spice, and sweetness. Pastilla and apple cider are great segways to each other, and go brilliantly. These two recipes aim to show you exactly how this does so. 

The Pastilla, which is chicken filling wrapped in multiple layers of phyllo dough, also features a spicy Lamb Merguez sausage, which is popular in North Africa. There is a recipe on how to make your own Merguez within this recipe, so check it out! 

Recipe serves 8 people.

For the Apple Cider:

1 gallon apple juice
Muslim cloth or Cheesecloth for wrapping the spices up
3 sticks cinnamon
5 pods star anise
2 tablespoons dried orange peel (If you can't find this in stores, make your own! peel an orange and cut away the pith (white part), then cut up and bake at 250 degrees for 25 minutes.)
2 tablespoons allspice berries
2 tablespoons whole cloves
1 tablespoon dried lemon peel

For the Merguez:

2 pounds ground lamb
1 tablespoon cumin
1 tablespoon coriander
12 small dried red chilies (chile de arbol is great for this)
1/4 cup olive oil
3 cloves garlic
2 teaspoons caraway seed
1/2 tablespoon sumac
1/2 tablespoon turmeric
Salt and pepper to season

For the Pastilla:

12 sheets of phyllo dough
2 pounds chicken thighs
3 beaten eggs
2 pounds merguez
1 tablespoon sugar
2 cloves garlic
1 large white onion, diced
1 cup sliced almonds
1/4 cup powdered sugar
1 1/2 cups chicken stock
1 tablespoon diced ginger (or 1/2 tablespoon ground ginger)
1/2 tablespoon ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons ground nutmeg
1/4 cup fresh chopped parsley (flat-leaf is better for this)
1 cup melted butter (can be replaced with olive oil or another oil if you wish)
Salt and Pepper to season


1. Make the merguez the night before. Start by blending together the garlic, chilies, olive oil, and some salt and pepper to make a basic harissa paste. Mix this and the rest of your spices into the lamb, then let sit in the fridge overnight to marinate.
2. For the cider, wrap all of the spices into the muslim or cheese cloth and tie off. Add to a pot of the apple juice, bring to a boil, then let simmer on a very low heat so it's warm when you're ready to serve it.
3. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
4. Get a hot pan with some olive oil, and saute your onions, ginger, and garlic until the onions turn translucent. Add the regular sugar, half of your cinnamon, and half of your nutmeg at this point.
5. When the onions turn translucent, add the chicken thighs and the merguez, and cooked through until all of the meat is cooked. Add chicken stock, bring to a boil and let it reduce part way. Mix in the beaten egg and almonds at this point.
6. When everything is just about fully cooked, add the fresh chopped parsley and mix. Set aside to cool.
7. In a large round cake tin or other baking dish, add 4 sheets of phyllo dough to the bottom. Make sure to lightly brush each sheet with your butter/fat of choice. The phyllo should drape out of the pan, since that overlap will be used to help make the top crust even better.
8. At this point, spoon in about half of your chicken filling. Layer 4 more sheets of brushed phyllo dough, then add the rest of the chicken/merguez mixture.
9. Add 2 more brushed sheets to the top, then crumple all of the overlap phyllo dough over the top to create a nice covering.
10. Bake in the oven for 10 minutes. Afterwards, turn the pastilla around (easiest way is to use a plate and press it against the cake tin, flip over so the pastilla comes out, then slide that back in so the other side crisps up) and bake for another 10 minutes.
11. To serve, dust with the remainder of your cinnamon, nutmeg, and powdered sugar all combined together. Eat with the delicious apple cider.

This is kind of an autumnal twist on pastilla, with warm and spicy notes both inside and outside from the cinnamon, nutmeg, and merguez. Combined with the apple cider, the two should play off of each other very well.

I hope you enjoyed this recipe! Let me know what you think and what you would change. If you make it at home, let me know how it turns out! Enjoy! =) 

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