Friday, July 03, 2009

Yellow, Yellow Everywhere: An Adventure in Couscous

I always wanted a yellow hue in my kitchen. I meant the walls, though. Not the stove. Or the counters. Or the cupboard. Or the range hood. Or me.

Yesterday I decided to go Moroccan. I had nearly all the ingredients for Couscous with Chicken and Vegetables. Despite the missing baby onions, I went ahead anyways. I knew I was in for a long process as it basically a gently simmered stew but I learned a valuable lesson. I should have switched from the large skillet they suggested to my deep-sided dutch oven. At least the lid was a better fit. Probably would have used a lot less paper towel. And a lot less scrubbing with the magic eraser.

The recipe was definitely a keeper but it still seemed like it was missing something. The Frog and I aren't exacty sure what it is yet. It could be the baby onions but I doubt it. There was a whole lot of fine chopped onion in the mix too. We guessed maybe it was missed merguez. We have had this dish before in France. It always had merguez in it with the chicken. Since we aren't near any merguez right now, we can't try it again any time soon. We hope to rectify that within the month. Then we can let you know.

I got this recipe for Kseksou Bidawi Bil Djej (Couscous with Chicken and Vegetables) from The Food of Morocco: A Journey for Food Lovers. It was, minus the merguez, a very similar recipe to the couscous you can get in a large can on any shelf in a French supermarket (I know what you're thinking: "A CAN?" but I have to say the canned, jarred and frozen meals to be had are way superior in taste to the stuff you can usually get in North America).

Couscous with Chicken and Vegetables (adapted from the above book)

1 roasting chicken cut into 8 pieces
4 tbsp ghee
1 yellow onion
1 tsp ground turmeric
1 tsp ground cumin
1/4 tsp ground saffron
1 cinnamon stick (3 inch piece)
4 cilantro sprigs, 4 parsley sprigs tied in a bunch
1 1/2 cups halved cherry tomatoes
3 carrots, peeled and cut into thick coins
3 zucchini cut into chunks
1 cup frozen green peas
1 can chickpeas, rinsed and drained


boxed couscous, cooked to instructions
3 tbsp butter

3 tsp harissa, or to taste

The chicken doesn't need to have the skin removed. Heat the ghee in a large saucepan (with high sides and a fitted lid). Add chicken and brown on each side. Reduce the heat, add the onion and cook until softened. Stir in the turmeric and cumin. Pour in 3 cups of water, then add saffron, cinnamon stick, bunch of herbs and tomatoes. Season with 1 1/2 tsp of salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste. Bring to a gentle boil, cover and cook over low heat for 25 minutes. Add the carrots and simmer for a further 20 minutes. Add the zucchini, frozen peas and chickpeas and cook for 20 minutes or until the chicken and vegetables are tender.

While the stew is cooking its last step, prepare the couscous. You can used water or chicken bouillon (for more flavour). Stir the butter through the couscous.

Put 1 cup of the chicken stew broth into a bowl. Add 3 tsp of harissa paste and stir in.

Serve stew on top of the steamed couscous. Add extra broth and harissa to moisten.

Serves 6 (or allows for leftovers for the next day)

Try and fuss with it yourself or make suggestions if you know what is missing. Let me know.

Oh, and be careful. It may not happen if your lid is a perfect fit but still... The steam is yellow. REALLY yellow. And it likes to settle everywhere. Be prepared to kill a tree's worth of paper towel, just in case.