Cinnamon Chicken in Filo Dough on Arab Street in Granada, Spain 2006
For a taste of Moorish Spain, both literally and figuratively, Arab Street is the place to go. While there are Moroccan kebab shops scattered all around town, Arab Street and the Albaicin is home to more sit-down restaurants and Arab-inspired teterias. On one of our last nights living in Granada, we set out for a flamenco show and a meal at a Moroccan restaurant.
The flamenco show started an hour late (in fairly typical Andalusian style), so we ordered some food while we waited. It was an Arab take on chicken pot pie, with the key ingredient being cinnamon. I wasn’t much of a cook back then, but the idea of mixing meat and a sweet spice like cinnamon was completely novel to me. I had never tasted anything like that before. The inside was warm like an apple pie. The meat was soft and tender, which was a compliment to the flaky filo exterior.
For years, I searched out this dish, at restaurants and online, and finally found something pretty close to this Moroccan-cum-Andalusian speciality at Epicurious. (Click the link for the full recipe. I want to make sure I give credit where credit is due. My explanations below will basically just tell you what alterations I made to the dish. I also just joined Pinterest, so please follow me on there for a collection of these recipes.)
I omitted a few of the spices, like the turmeric (another lingering effect of my Indian food poisoning) and the saffron, which is quite expensive. I also added some shredded carrots and substituted beef broth for chicken, to give it a more robust flavor.
If you are feeling lazy, this could easily be a meal on its own, without putting it into the filo dough. As an alternative to the skillet, I often take the full chicken thigh, rub it with the same spices in a Ziploc bag and then broil it in the oven on a cast-iron skillet for four minutes per side. The chicken comes out super moist! I then serve some bulgur, rice or orzo on the side.
Continue reading if you want the full filo experience…
I deviated a little bit from the original recipe here again. Working with filo dough is a bit of an art form, one that I am not very good at. So instead of trying to cut this tissue-paper thin dough into circles, I just spread them flat on the 9×13 baking dish so that the bottom and sides were covered, There are about 4-5 pieces of dough in the picture above. I took one and basically covered one half of the dish, then another to cover the other side, and continued on the right and left like a pinwheel. After that, I folded up one or two pieces and put it in the middle give the bottom some extra support.
Make sure to coat the filo dough! I use an olive oil cooking spray instead of butter to save a few calories. The butter is more flavorful but there is enough spice in the dish that you could do without it and not make a big sacrifice on the taste. Dump in all the chicken-y goodness.
Then fold the sides and cover. Next time I make it, I might add some interior layers (which is what the circle filo dough would have created) to give it a little more crunch. Coat the top with extra spray and it’s ready for the oven!
Hope you enjoy the recipe! Please leave me a comment below to let me know how it turned out. I am also looking for future contributions to this series, so comment or message me if you’re interested in sharing a local/ethnic recipe!
Bon appetit and Afiyet olsun.