My mind has been churning lately with all that is to come this summer, planning, making lists and sketches, and getting over-enthusiastic about packing. Sometimes I find it hard to wax on and on about life when I am so busy feeling it. Every time I try to write in these past couple days, all that comes out is something akin to poetry. Snippets and snapshots of these slow moving yet full days.
Glances out my living room window mark the passing of the day.
Face close to the pane in the early morning to catch the last shimmering hours of a cool breeze.
Midday, cross-legged on the floor across the room,
avoiding the harsh shafts of sunlight burning the couch cushions.
Then evening, back to lounging lazily side by side the open shutters, watching as the sky fades from bright blue to dust to lavender to dusk.
You and me, side by side, watching the birds circle, straining to hear that first Allah rising up from the setting sun, as the steam from our plates wafts up
making us giddy and expectant.
During this month, we are reminded to look up.
The ground is heavy with the weight of our lazy fasting bodies and if we stay there, appetite, a universal wolf (to quote the bard) will take hold and lash out low blows.
So turn skywards. Look out of the windows, let yourself not feel the pounds of your tired limbs but the light of your insides. They will float you through the day if you soften your focus and turn your eyes above.
The spirit cannot be released by force. It is by letting go of the grip. I may not have any food in my belly but I think my spirit might be starting to fill me up
just a little bit more.
Why can’t we live like this every day?
In the dusky evening hours before the call, strangely enough I find that there is no better way to take your mind off of your appetite and thirst than by immersing yourself wholly in the preparation of nourishment. Some may say that making briouats is labor-intensive, what with all of the cooking, then wrapping and origami-ing over and over, but I say it is an active meditation. Busy work for the hands to let the mind float as it will. Plus, the handmade, folded-with-care result is beyond worth the effort, especially if you make them together with a loved one (thanks, M). When you haven’t eaten all day, there is nothing more satisfying than sinking your teeth into crispy-thin wrappings filled with juicy and generously flavored chicken and egg.
Really though, even on a normal given day, fresh-from-the-frying-pan (or oven) Moroccan briouats are something I crave on a regular basis. They are somewhat akin to samosas, but the flavors are of a completely different variety. More minimal spices, and yet still maximum flavor. The chicken is cooked with a heap of diced onions that eventually boil down to a caramelized, rich sauce, melting in with the meat until it is falling off of the bone. The whole process of cooking these is tactile and involved- shredding chicken pieces with your fingers, squishing in the boiled egg, rubbing oil on every surface to make the folding process that much easier, delicately handling paper-y sheets of dough. Once you have all of your cute little triangular packets, it is up to you- fried or baked. I’ve tried them the two ways and both result in delicious, crispy and satisfying bites. I know this recipe makes a heap of them, but trust me, if you bring these briouats around to your family, friends and colleagues, they are not going to last very long.
Moroccan Chicken + Egg Briouats
Makes about 50 small-medium briouats
- 1 kilo (~2 lbs) of chicken meat- cooked on or off the bone (we used a whole, small chicken)
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 5 medium onions, finely diced
- 1/2 cup packed fresh parsley, minced
- 2 tbsp butter
- Salt to taste
- 1-2 tsp black pepper, depending on your tastes
- 1 tsp ground ginger
- 1/2 tsp turmeric
- pinch of saffron
- 1 chicken bouillon cube
- 1 tsp smen (optional, but recommended for flavor)
- 1 kilo prepared warqa (moroccan pastry wrappers) or phyllo dough sheets
- 4 eggs, hard-boiled
- Neutral oil for wrapping + frying (if not baking)
Heat a large pot over a medium flame, then add the 2 tbsp of butter to melt. Sauté the minced garlic until fragrant, then add all of the chicken. Toss with butter and garlic and cook just until the meat starts to turn white. Mix in the salt + pepper, ginger, turmeric, saffron, bouillon cube and smen (if using) and continue to cook for a couple minutes. Add the diced onions and parsley, stir well, bring the heat down to medium-low and cover. Do not add any extra water since the onions will quickly release water of their own as a cooking liquid. Let it simmer, stirring occasionally, for about an hour or until the meat is tender and falling off of the bone.
Once it is done, remove from heat and strain the liquid through a fine-mesh strainer, preserving the sauce if you want to add to a soup or something later. Separate the chicken pieces from the onion, placing the meat in a large bowl and letting it cool. When it is no longer hot to touch, using your fingers, remove all of the bones and skin from the meat and begin to shred the chicken into small pieces. Mix the onions back in, then slice up your 4 hard-boiled eggs into cubes and mix them in as well. Keep filling in the fridge to chill until you are ready to wrap.
Cut your warqa or phyllo sheets into strips about 4-5 inches (10-11cm) wide and about a foot (30cm) long. Rub a smooth surface with oil, then lay out one sheet at a time, vertically facing you. Place about a tablespoon of filling near the top of the sheet in the center and fold over the top. Fold in each vertical side to close off the edges, but not folded all the way to the center. Begin wrapping up the filling by turning it over, down the sheet of dough, on a diagonal angle in order to form a triangle shape, moving it all the way down until there is only a little strip of dough left at the end. Tuck this into the last fold you made and voila, you have a perfect little briouat. (The photos below should help with how to fold it exactly)
Frying: Heat about 1/2 an inch of high-heat oil in a large frying pan until it is sizzling hot. I would recommend starting by testing one briouat, frying it for just 20-30 seconds on each side or until golden brown and removing it with a slotted spoon. Place in a strainer or on paper towels to drain excess oil as you make the others. After testing one, you can make as many as will fit in your frying pan at once. Repeat until all of the briouats are crispy and golden.
Baking: Preheat the oven to 400ºF (205ºC). In a small bowl, whisk together 1 egg with 1 tablespoon of milk. Using a pastry brush, coat both sides of each briouat with egg wash before placing on a parchment paper-lined tray. Bake for 10 minutes on one side, flip them over and bake for another 10-15 minutes or until golden and crisp.
Cool the briouats for about 10 minutes before eating. You can keep them in a sealed container for about 3 days or freeze them for longer, but they are best served warm + fresh.