By Cat, Feb 2012 (Photo, right, from Wikimedia Commons)
I’m not very familiar with Moroccan cuisine, although I’ve had couscous many times. This type of stew is called a tagine (because of the type of pot in which it is traditionally prepared, over coals). The cooking method is considered a braise or slow-cooked, such as in a crock pot. The combo of dried fruit and spices with the chicken in this recipe appeals to me. However, I’ve not yet tested this recipe.
Couscous is a type of pasta that is typically steamed. It is getting harder to find the type of couscous that has not been pre-steamed and dried, and most couscous is not whole grain. If you can find the real deal (whole grain and not pre-steamed), I highly recommend that, but it’s a bit more fussy to prepare. Whichever kind you get, be sure to fluff it well after steaming and before serving.
An alternative to couscous, especially if you need to avoid gluten, is sprouted quinoa or steamed rice.
Moroccan-Style Chicken, with Couscous
This recipe is adapted from Dash supplement to the Daily Inter Lake newspaper, February 2012 (see also Dash Recipes (1)). The original recipe calls for 1 box (instant) couscous, prepared ‘according to box directions’. Typical instructions are included below (see Preparing Pre-Steamed Couscous, below the main recipe). See also good tips in Eating Well article: 5 Couscous Cooking Mistakes to Avoid (5).
Or use sprouted and steamed quinoa instead. I like Saffron-Raisin Quinoa; the flavor of saffron goes well with this dish, but omit the raisins since they are included in the chicken recipe.
You could use canned chickpeas as in the original recipe, but I prefer to start with dried chickpeas and sprout then cook them myself. I usually make up a big batch to freeze most in half-pint or pint jars, to thaw and use in recipes like this one.
While this recipe is written for a slow-cooker, it can also be made in a Dutch Oven on stove-top or in the oven.
The original recipe serves 6, and requires 3 lb of bone-in chicken. Because my slow-cooker can’t hold that much, I’ve cut the recipe in half.
Ingredients & Equipment:
- meaty pieces of a whole chicken (drumsticks, thighs, breasts and wings); I recommend brining breasts
- 1 small (or 1/2 large) butternut squash
- 1 tomato
- 1/2 onion
- 2 cloves garlic
- 1 cup sprouted and cooked chickpeas, drained and rinsed
- 1/2 cup homemade chicken stock
- 1/4 cup raisins or dried currants
- 1 tsp ground coriander
- 1/2 tsp ground cumin
- 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp unrefined sea salt (go light on the salt if you brined the chicken breasts)
- 1/8 tsp cayenne
- 1/4 cup kalamata or other brined olives, pitted and halved
- couscous or sprouted quinoa; enough for 3-4 servings
- bowl (for brining breasts)
- saucepan with lid, for steaming couscous/quinoa
- 3-quart slow cooker, saucier, or dutch oven
- If you plan to use sprouted quinoa; start sprouting 2 days before you plan to serve this dish. Similarly, if you want to sprout the chickpeas before cooking, start that 2 days before you plan to serve the dish.
- Prep: Cut up whole chicken into individual pieces (leave bones in and skin on). Brine the chicken breasts for 30 minutes in refrigerator. Remove from brine, rinse and dry. cut each half-breast into two if they are large (4-total breast pieces).
- Meanwhile, prep veggies: peel squash and cut into cubes. Chop tomatoes and onion. Mince garlic, then crush with 1/4 tsp salt with the side of a chef’s knife blade.
- Cook chickpeas (if you sprouted them first, they will need much less cooking time).
- Combine veggies, garlic, chickpeas, broth and raisins in slow cooker or Dutch oven.
- In small bowl, combine spices and remaining 1/4 tsp salt, then rub into chicken pieces. However, if you brined the breasts, do not mix the salt with the spice rub; instead, sprinkle the dark meat pieces with salt after rubbing on the spices.
- Arrange chicken in a single layer on top of veggies in slow cooker. Cover and cook for 4 hours on high or 8 hours on low. If using a Dutch oven, bring mixture just to a boil, then lower heat to simmer (use simmer plate if necessary to keep the pot from bubbling too much and drying out); cook about 4 hours or more until meat is falling from bones. Stir in olives just before serving, to warm.
- Meanwhile, prepare couscous or quinoa. If using the pre-steamed variety, see below. If using quinoa, I like Saffron-Raisin Quinoa without the raisins (since they are included in the chicken dish). Fluff with a fork.
- Serve chicken and veggies in shallow bowls with couscous or quinoa
Preparing Pre-steamed (Instant) Couscous
These instructions are for couscous that has been pre-steamed, then dried, before packaging. The following is from CookThink (3). Middle Eastern Food, About (2) also provides instructions, but cites more water than is needed.
- Start with 1 1/2 cups filtered water for each cup of dried couscous;
- Bring the water to a boil, reduce to simmer and add the couscous.*
- Simmer 10 – 15 minutes with the lid on the pot.
- Drain any water not absorbed and fluff the couscous well, with a fork.
* For saffron couscous, add 1/2 tsp saffron with the couscous to the simmering water. Or see Fine Cooking recipe for saffron couscous (4).
- Dash supplement to the Daily Inter Lake newspaper, February 2012 (see also dashrecipes.com).
- Middle Eastern Food (About) recipe for couscous (mideastfood.about.com/od/couscousrecipes/r/basiccouscous.htm
- CookThink recipe for couscous: cookthink.com/reference/170/A_really_simple_way_to_make_couscous
- Fine Cooking’s Saffron Couscous recipe (finecooking.com/recipes/saffron-couscous.aspx)
- Eating Well article (eatingwell.com/blogs/healthy_cooking_blog/5_couscous_cooking_mistakes_to_avoid)