IN MESARA, on the fertile plain of Crete, the three weeks before the 40-day period of Lent are days of mad parties, fancy dressing and meals rich in dairy products and meat, with public dances and carnival parades marking the end of winter. Hovering between sweet and savory, this festive pie, which is traditional during Carnival, is reminiscent of bisteya, the famous Moroccan pastry stuffed with pigeon (or chicken) and almonds. Though the name comes from the Turkish word çullama, meaning “pastry-covered food,” this pie is not Turkish, for it is made with pork, a meat that Muslim Turks are prohibited from eating. But Middle Eastern and Arab influences are present nonetheless, and the combination of ingredients—ground meat, nuts, currants and cinnamon—is certainly very old. In my version, I substitute a mixture of ground pork and chicken livers for the traditional pork liver. You can make your own pastry, but commercial puff pastry works equally well.
Serve as a main course, accompanied by a salad of wilted greens or a simple mixed green salad.
In a large, deep skillet, heat the oil or butter and sauté the livers over medium heat until firm, about 4 minutes. Add the pork and sauté for 4 minutes more. Add the wine, currants, cinnamon sticks and Aleppo pepper or pepper flakes, reduce the heat to low and simmer for 15 minutes, or until the pork is no longer pink. Remove from the heat and stir in the rice,
If using phyllo, divide the dough into 4 pieces and fit 2 sheets into the bottom and up the sides of the dish, brushing each sheet with oil or butter, and trim to a 1-inch overhang. Add the filling, smoothing it with a spatula, and pour the remaining
If using puff pastry, divide into 3 portions. Cover 1 piece with plastic wrap. Briefly knead the other 2 pieces together, then roll out on a lightly floured surface. Fit 1 sheet of pastry into the dish, and trim to a 1-inch overhang. Add the filling, smoothing the top with a spatula, and pour the remaining
Let the pie cool on a rack for 15 minutes (see Note), then sprinkle with confectioners’ sugar and cinnamon and serve.
© 2000 All rights reserved. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.