Wanna know where I was at 10am this fine morning?… well, thanks for asking – I was front row centre for a morning viewing of the new Star Wars extravaganza. Guess where I’ll be tonight?… you guessed it – the same glorious place, soaking up the magic of the Force. I’ll avoid spoilers, but it’s safe to say – it was amaze-balls!!!

I had every intention of writing about Christmas Eve dinner and making this gorgeous pie in celebration of the holidays. I was going to mention how impressive this is as you pop the rim off the spring form pan and unveil its flaky bounty. I had mushy things to say about tradition and family and how delicious food can create lasting memories. I’d love to wax poetic for you, but at this moment, all I can think of is Star Wars.

I can’t tell you how joyous and relieved I am that this seventh instalment lives up to – nay – exceeds all expectations. With J.J. Abrams at the helm, the saga was in mucho capable hands, but he blew the roof off the joint! The cast is phenomenal, the effects are a perfect blend of fantastical and realistic, and there is plenty of Harrison Ford to go around. My pants were charmed right off – humorous, sentimental with familiar heroes – it’s like an old friend has come back to town.

But like the best movies in the franchise – I’m looking at you “Empire Strikes Back” – we are left wanting more. Can we wait another year? Something tells me the pay-off will be well worth it. Who knows, this movie has so much juice, it might still be in the theatres come next Christmas.

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MOROCCAN CHICKEN BASTILLA PIE

serves 4- 6

This recipe is a star in our house. It is so delicious and unique and even though there is phyllo involved, it’s easier than you think. The very first time I ever worked with the pastry was to make this pie and that’s when I realized, there’s no reason to be intimidated. Since then, I’ve found other yummy ways to use it, like this riff on tourtiere.

I came across a recipe for Bastilla Pie in the always awesome LCBO Magazine and have since tweaked it some over the years. Sometimes I swap out the dates for mushrooms or pop in some sweet peas. Sultanas are also sometimes included. My only advice is not to go too heavy on the butter when preparing the phyllo, it won’t be as flaky.

This is a perfect dinner party recipe to wow your guests.

 

INGREDIENTS

2 tsp olive oil

1 whole chicken -or- 2 chicken breasts and 2 chicken leg quarters, skin on and bone in

4 cups onions, finely diced

2 garlic cloves, minced

1 cup carrot, grated

1 tbsp each ground cumin and ground cinnamon

2 tsp ground ginger

1 tsp ground coriander

1/2 tsp each tumeric and chili flakes

1 cup chicken or vegetable stock

kosher salt and fresh ground pepper

1 cup dates, coarsely chopped

1/2 cup slivered almonds, toasted

1/4 cup pitted and chopped mixed olives

1/2 cup fresh cilantro, chopped

3 eggs

8 sheets phyllo pastry

1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted

 

Preheat your oven to 375F and butter a 9″ spring form pan, lining the bottom with parchment paper.

Season chicken pieces all over with salt and peeper. In a large Dutch oven with lid, brown the chicken on both sides. Remove to the side.

In the same pot, sauté onions about 10 minutes or until golden. Add garlic, carrot and spices and stir about 1 minute more. Add back in the chicken and pour over the stock and season with salt and pepper. Cover with lid and simmer for 20 minutes over low heat.

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Turn off heat. Remove chicken and when its cool enough to handle, shred meat from the bone and into large bite sized pieces. Stir the chicken, dates, almonds, olives and cilantro into the pot. Taste for seasoning and add more salt or pepper, if needed. Add the eggs and mix through.

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To Assemble: place 1 sheet of phyllo pastry horizontally on the counter or a large cutting board in front of you. Brush lightly with melted butter – don’t be too precious with this – you don’t need to completely coat the pastry. Now place a second sheet perpendicular to the first to form a cross-like shape. Brush again with butter. Repeat with the rest of the phyllo. The last one does not need to be buttered.

Carefully lift the pastry into the prepared spring form pan, gently pressing it to fit, leaving the extra to overhang. Pour in the chicken mixture, filling the pie evenly. Enclose the overhanging pastry and brush with the remaining butter.

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Bake for 40 minutes until the pastry is golden. Let cool a few minutes before slicing.

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To Serve: Pair this with a simple, lemony cous cous, a green salad, tomatoes with cucumbers or a simple veg like green beans. Eat leftovers chilled or reheat in the oven for 5 – 10 minutes.

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NIAGARA WINE PAIRINGS

Pairing wine with this dish is very flexible. You can enjoy it with either red or white. Because of the earthy and warm spices, a fuller bodied wine works well, preferably a little fruit forward.

2010 Paese Chardonnay from Colaneri – creamy and elegant

2013 Red Palette from 13th Street – perfectly balanced

2013 Izumi Red from Between the Lines a blend of Pinot Noir and Cabernet Franc – full, round and smooth

2013 Syrah from Big Head – big and juicy with a hint of pepper

2015 Rebecca Rose from Kacaba – fun and refreshing

2014 Shiraz from Konzelmann– lively red fruits, vanilla and pepper

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