I Made A Smorgasburg Sammy!
Smorgasburg — a weekly weekend food mecca which calls itself “A Brooklyn Flea Food Market” — is also the first place I’ve ever tried a cinnamon-y sweet and savory* Moroccan dish called bastilla. It was a bluebird May day in Dumbo with my boyfriend Brant and his parents, and his dad Tim had wandered over to Nadia’s Moroccan Kitchen stand for a plateful of the stuff.
My eyes popped open as soon as I had a spoonful of the fragrant filling. The combo of crunchy, sugary ground almonds with the salty bites of turmeric-flecked chicken, scrambled eggs and flaky phyllo pastry was uh-mazing.
I hadn’t seen this week’s Sandwich Surprisee, Anne in about eight years. It was so great to meet up for Moroccan munchies in Madison Square Park.
“This is delicious!” said Anne. “It’s very flavorful. You said there’s cilantro in this? It’s funny, I can’t taste it.”
“I know, right?” I said, disappointed (and also noting that the chicken was slightly but not deal-breakingly dry). “Maybe I should have just added it in fresh right before we ate. And duh, I forgot to put the ginger in.”
“I’d like to try a version with ginger,” said Anne, “but I don’t think it’s missing it. And maybe next time, a little less egg, because it overpowers the chicken. But the almonds with the orange blossom water are so good.”
“Yeah, I’m going to use that almond-orange blossom water-sugar topping on everything: yogurt, ice cream … ”
“And cinnamon buns,” said Anne. “That would be so good! By the way, I thought the cinnamon sugar would be weird on this, but it’s great.”
“How’s the phyllo?” I asked. “I was worried it would get soggy because I had to cover it right out of the oven to get down here.”
“It actually traveled well,” said Anne. “It’s crispy and light and it has just the perfect amount of butter.”
“Maybe that’s because I used a paper towel to brush it on instead of a pastry brush, because I don’t own one,” I said.
“Ooh, good tip,” said Anne, adding with a laugh, “And now I know what to get you for Christmas this year.”
To make my Smorgasburg Sammy, I cut out a few steps from this online recipe: I bought a pre-cooked rotisserie chicken from Whole Foods and pulled the meat off that, and I left out the saffron (sadly, I’m just not a saffron kinda girl).
I also microwaved the whole almonds in 30-second spurts instead of frying them. I know, I know, that’s not authentic, but at least it was fast and a lot less fatty. It took about 2 minutes to get them to a crunchy, faux-roasted temperature before grinding them and adding sugar and orange blossom water.
The bonus of the orange blossom water, which you can find in the ethnic foods aisle at your grocery store, is that it reminds me of Doughnut Plant’s Cashew Orange Blossom Doughseeds. Yum.
In 1/4 c. butter and 1/4 c. olive oil, I sautéed the shredded chicken with 1.5 t. salt, 2 t. freshly ground pepper, 1 t. turmeric and 2.5 cinnamon sticks. In my test batch, I didn’t like the sauteed onions, so I sprinkled in 1/4 t. garlic powder instead.
I then beat 8 eggs and fried them in the leftover pan drippings with 1/4 c. chopped cilantro.
The phyllo dough was less tricky than I thought it would be (I bought the Fillo Factory’s frozen organic version). In a dry frying pan, I draped one layer of phyllo at a time, brushing each lightly with unsalted butter. After I had three layers, I scooped in the chicken filling, the almonds and the eggs (chopped into smaller chunks).
Then I folded the layers of phyllo over the filling, again brushing each lightly with butter, tucking the ends in and flipping the whole thing over.
I baked two bastilla packages for 40 minutes in a 365˚ oven until they were golden brown.
You’re supposed to top the baked bastilla off with a healthy amount of powdered sugar mixed with cinnamon, but I didn’t have any non-lumpy powdered sugar, so I mixed the cinnamon with vegan cane sugar instead.
Next week: A Let’s Lunch date centered on one of my all-time favorite foods ever!
*Sweet and Savory was also my poker nickname at a weekly home game at 80 John Street back in 2005. Maybe that’s because I always came armed with a box of Stouffer’s French Bread Pizza and Kasugai Gummy Candy — the Litchi and the Muscat ones are everything.