Chicken Kibbe Pie

I had the good fortune of visiting Lebanon this summer. We took a quick stop in Beirut before heading off to Istanbul. It was hard to make sense of Beirut. It was dizzying. After a long flight and thinking I was about to die because my tongue was black (apparently pepto makes your tongue black!) I found Beirut difficult to understand. I would continuously seeing bullet ridden buildings and crumbling structures standing not to far from new and shiny yet eerily uninhabited buildings reshaping the skyline. Everywhere we went I could see the presence of passed powers in Beirut – most notably French and Ottoman. It was a hard place for me to figure out.

But sometimes the best learning is through eating, and boy was I schooled. Beirut had some of the best food that I have ever had. The richness, and complexity in flavors and textures was just amazing. I would go back just for the food. More than just the incredible foods, the food culture in Beirut rivaled that of major cities worldwide. In my own ignorance, I didn’t even know that the Lebanese had such appreciation for local and organic produce. While browsing a few English books in a bookstore I saw a cookbook with recipes based on local ingredients for regions of Lebanon! REGIONS in a country smaller than Connecticut, and Whole Foods tries to sell me tomatoes from New Jersey calling them local! Needless to say I was blown away. Oh, and the weekly food markets, put farmers markets to shame.

Though there is more to Beirut and its inhabitants than food, I didn’t take much for me to realize that despite the crazy circumstances these are still some pretty cool people. In an attempt to recreate some Lebanese cuisine I tried a chicken kibbe pie.

Chicken Kibbe Pie

Chicken “dough”
1 lb chicken thigh meat
1 cup fine bulgur
1 large egg
½ bunch cilantro, leaves chopped and stems discarded
1 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
1 tbsp ground coriander
1 tbsp sumak
1 tbsp cumin
pinch cinnamon
pinch allspice

Onion “stuffing”
1 large onion
¼ cup olive oil
2 tbsp butter
1 jalapeno pepper chopped, seeds removed
⅓ cup pine nuts
1 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
1 tbsp sumak
1 tbsp pomegranate molasses
1 tsp sugar
pinch cinnamon
pinch allspice

1. Begin by pulsing onions in the food processor.
2. Heat olive oil and butter in a skillet and add the onions, peppers and spices
3. Toast the pine nuts in the oven or in a small skillet and add to the onion mixture
4. Cook until the onions are soft. The mix will be a little runny.

1. Place bulgur in a bowl and rinse with warm water. Discard the water, being sure to drain as much water as possible.
2. Cut the chicken into large pieces and place in a food processor and pulse until ground.
3. Add the bulgur, spices, cilantro and egg and pulse until the mixture is well combined.
4. Place the chicken mixture in a bowl and divide into two parts
5. Place half of chicken mixture into a well greased pie pan. Using wax paper gently press the chicken mixture flat to cover the bottom of the pan.
6. Place the onion mixture onto the first layer of chicken and spread evenly
7. Place the remaining chicken mixture on wax paper, using a second piece of wax paper gently press chicken mixture into a circle. Remove top layer of wax paper, and gently slide chicken mixture onto pie, creating the top layer.
8. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes or until cooked through

Recipe Notes:

Despite my love for Lebanese food I was intimidated by this recipe. Words like “jam” and “pomegranate molasses” kinda scared me, as did the abundance of nuts. When I made this I went easy on the molasses, sugar and nuts though I probably didn’t need to reduce the proportions. The flavors came together so well and I can’t wait to make it again. As for the self-ground chicken, you can probably save yourself a good deal of time if you buy ground chicken or have a butcher do it for you.

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