Trying to be as flexible as possible, I’m including equivalents for squab and chicken as well as vegetables (a couple vegetarian readers weighed in on this preemptively).
1 large Spanish onion, finely chopped
3 tablespoons butter or vegetable oil
1 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1 green chile pepper, seeded and chopped fine
2 teaspoons ras el hanout (a.k.a. “Moroccan Spice”)*
2 pigeons (squab) OR about 2 pounds chicken pieces of your choice OR about 1.25 pounds root vegetables of your choice
2 cups chicken or vegetable broth
1 cinnamon stick
Pinch of saffron threads
1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
1/3 cup chopped fresh cilantro (coriander)
5 large eggs, lightly beaten
2 tablespoons lemon juice (orange flower water works great, too)
2 cups whole almonds, toasted and ground
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 8-ounce package store-bought phyllo dough or 1 recipe warqa sheets
1/2 cup melted butter
toasted silvered almonds for garnish
powdered sugar for dusting
ground cinnamon for decoration
In a 4-quart casserole melt the butter and sauté the onion over medium heat until golden. Add the salt, ginger, pepper and ras el hanout (if using). Put in the poultry (or vegetables) and cinnamon stick, broth and saffron. Reduce the heat, cover, and simmer over low for about half an hour until tender.
Remove the chicken (or vegetables). Discard the cinnamon stick. Allow the chicken to cool, then strip the meat from the bones and discard the any skin or bones. Shred the meat. Meanwhile, cook the onion mixture down until it’s thick, about 1 3/4 cups. Add the parsley and cilantro and simmer for about 3 minutes. Add the beaten eggs and lemon juice and cook, stirring them until they’re cooked. Add the shredded chicken. Remove the mixture from the heat and set aside
In a small bowl, combine the ground almonds, the granulated sugar and 1/2 teaspoon of the cinnamon. Set the mixture aside.
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenhiet and lightly butter a 9″ cast iron skillet or cake layer pan. Place 4 sheets of phyllo or warqa in the bottom of the skillet brushing each one sheet with butter. Lay the sheets in at different angles so the bottom of the pan is covered but there’s a good bit of overhang.
Sprinkle half the almond mixture over the sheets, top with the shredded chicken mixture, then the rest of the almond mixture. Fold the overhanging edges of the fillo dough over the mixture. Top with the remaining phyllo sheets, brushing each with clarified butter. Tuck the edges in along the rim of the pan.
Bake for 25 to 35 minutes until the phyllo is golden brown and it’s heated through. Cool the bisteeya, then slide it onto a platter. Sprinkle the slivered almonds on top and with powdered sugar, then lightly with cinnamon. Cut into wedges and serve.
*Substitute 1/2 teaspoon turmeric, 1/2 teaspoon cumin and 1/4 teaspoon each nutmeg, allspice, black pepper and cardamom