Forget pumpkin pie, how about kicking off the most gluttonous season of the year with a recipe from the first woman who flew around the world?
In a modern world where it is shockingly easy to be defined by a single action, Jerrie Mock shied away from the limelight and accomplishment, and instead, chose to revel in the things that brought her delight. One of her favorite hobbies? Cooking.
One of Mock's (other) goals was to write a cookbook, and her granddaughter, Rita Pike, notes a particular Moroccan chicken bastilla and couscous dish that frequently appeared in the familial repertoire. It was from Mock's journey around the world where she first discovered the dish, and savored it.
Pike recalls memories with the late aviator. "I remember, so many times, just sitting in the kitchen, watching her cook and just talking with her about her flights around the world and about politics and religion and anything that has piqued her interest from the news. [Sometimes we talked about] her mystery novels, she loved reading mystery novels, and we talked about her favorite authors... and opera, we talked about opera a lot."
Morocco also happened to be Mock’s third stop in her flight around the world. According to the Smithsonian, Mock feasted on Ramadan soup, pigeon bastilla and couscous on her two days in Casablanca.1
Bastilla, a North African meat pie of sorts, is made with warqa pastry, reminiscent of phyllo dough. This is code for being that it's okay to be human and buy phyllo from the supermarket, instead of being on The Great British Bake Off.
Throughout life, Mock reportedly often used recipes as a "jumping off" point. Befitting for a woman that clearly thrived in the unknown, and if you yourself, of course, want to pull out all the stops!
[For reference, here's a Gordon Ramsay video making a chicken bastilla pie look easy, followed by the delicious recipe. Bon appétit!]
Moroccan Chicken Bastilla
- 2 ½ to 3 pounds chicken legs and breasts or four fat pigeons
- 1 ¼ cups plus 1 tablespoon butter
- 1 cup chopped onions
- ½ teaspoon harissa
- ½ teaspoon cumin
- ½ teaspoon dried mint
- 1 tablespoon finely chopped parsley
- 1 teaspoon ground ginger
- ¼ teaspoon saffron
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 4 teaspoons cinnamon
- 1 cup water
- 1 ½ cups blanched chopped almonds
- 3 tablespoons sugar
- 1 package phyllo strudel leaves
- 3 tablespoons vegetables oil
- 3 tablespoons powdered sugar
- Combine all ingredients well. To store, firm with olive oil, cover tightly, and refrigerate.
- Brown chicken or pigeons in 6 tablespoons of the butter. Remove to a plate. Add onions to pan and cook until translucent. Add coriander, harissa, cumin, mint, parsley, ginger, saffron, salt, and ½ teaspoon cinnamon. Mix in water and bring to a boil. Return chicken to pan, cover, and cook over low heat until tender. Drain chicken and reserve broth. Cut meat into pieces about 2 inches by 1 inch, discarding bones and skin.
- Bring reserved broth to a boil. Beat eggs lightly and add, stirring until softly scrambled and most of broth is absorbed. Remove from heat.
- Brown chopped almonds in 4 tablespoons of the butter. Drain and mix with sugar and ½ teaspoon cinnamon.
- Spread 6 sheets of phyllo so they overlap in a circle, pinwheel fashion. Fold 2 sheets in half and place in center for reinforcement.
- Spread almond mixture in an 8-inch circle in the center of phyllo leaves. Cover with ½ of the egg mixture. Put pieces of chicken in a neat layer on top of this and cover with the rest of the eggs.
- Fold up center pieces of phyllo to encircle all layers of stuffing. Melt 8 tablespoons of butter and brush on exposed phyllo (open leaves) and fold each sheet up over the stuffing separately. Brush each sheet as you proceed. Before the last sheet of folded phyllo is pulled up, add 2 more folded sheets to the top of the stack to make the crust firmer.
- Melt 3 tablespoons butter with 3 tablespoons vegetable oil in a large, heavy skillet. Slide bastilla into skillet and brown over moderate heat. When golden, slide onto plate, place another plate over the top. Hold firmly and invert the plates and bastilla. Slide bastilla back into skillet and brown on other side.
- Sprinkle with powdered sugar and 3 teaspoons cinnamon. Cut in wedges to serve.
- Mock noted that the bastilla was, “a delicious way to get rid of unwanted birds.” ↩