Share-Worthy Recipe: Moroccan Chicken and Pearl Couscous
I know, you are going to think that I am obsessed with Israeli couscous (also known as pearl couscous), seeing as though I just posted a recipe using this ingredient last month. And maybe you’ll think I’m obsessed with the Washington Post’s food section. It’s true – I do find the WP’s recipes to be very reliable. For now, you’ll have to forgive the redundancies and trust that this is a recipe that you’ll want to have on your short list for both easy family dinners and entertaining.
I found today’s recipe when I found the recipe for Israeli Couscous and Mushroom Pilaf. It caught my eye, because one of our good friends has made a delicious Moroccan Chicken dish for us several times. It didn’t seem like it could be that hard, so I asked him for the recipe. He sent me 3 pages of instructions, which he said would probably take me 2-3 hours, and told me not to deviate from the recipe (every step is important!). I accepted that this was not the kind of recipe that I should attempt with a baby crawling in my kitchen, and that’s the way I cook these days.
When I happened upon this recipe, though, it looked totally doable. And it was. It took me about 30 minutes to assemble and then bakes for 45 minutes. Plus you can assemble it ahead of time and pop it in the oven later. I remember when BabyC was just a little peanut, I could reliably put her down to do some cooking in the morning but never in the afternoon or evening, so anything I could assemble ahead of time was a life-saver. And the best part? It is delicious and healthy. It is chock full of good vegetables, legumes, chicken, and even fruit. The sweetness from the fruit will win over your kids, but it is well-balanced by the mellow flavors of the spice-rubbed chicken. My friend and I haven’t yet had a Moroccan Chicken cook-off, but I think my version has a chance, and it beats his hands down in both practicality and nutritional value. (Don’t be offended J, you can cook for us anytime.)
For all of my gushing about Israeli couscous last month, I am aware that it is really just pasta made from refined flour. You may be able to find whole wheat Israeli couscous, but I also think this recipe would work great with quinoa if you want to get more whole grains into your dinner.
Moroccan Chicken and Pearl Couscous Casserole
- 3 1/2 tablespoons ras el hanout (this is a spice mixture that you may be able to find at a specialty store, but I made my own – see NOTE below)
- About 2-2.5 lb chicken (the recipe called for 6 chicken breasts, but I have made it with thighs and with a whole chicken cut into pieces (bone-in), and both turned out great – cheaper and probably more flavorful than chicken breasts)
- 48 ounces canned whole tomatoes, crushed
- 2 cups (uncooked) Israeli couscous
- 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
- 1 1/2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
- 4 medium cloves garlic, crushed
- 1 small red onion, coarsely chopped
- 1 medium sweet potato, peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes (2 cups)
- 15 ounces canned chickpeas, drained and rinsed
- 1/2 cup (4 ounces) dried apricots, each cut in half
- 1/4 cup golden raisins
- 1 large zucchini, cut into 1-inch cubes (2 cups)
- Chopped parsley or chives, for garnish
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Use 2 1/2 tablespoons of the ras el hanout to coat the chicken on all sides; place on a plate and cover loosely while you prepare the casserole.
Spread 1/2 cup of the crushed tomatoes on the bottom of a heavy-bottomed 5-quart casserole or Dutch oven.
Place the couscous in a medium bowl. Add the oil and toss to coat evenly, then distribute the coated couscous evenly over the tomatoes in the casserole.
Combine the remaining crushed tomatoes, the broth, garlic, onion, sweet potato, chickpeas and the remaining tablespoon of ras el hanout in a separate heavy-bottomed pot over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium and cook for 5 minutes, stirring once or twice. Remove from the heat; add the apricots, raisins and zucchini, stirring to incorporate.
Use a slotted spoon to distribute the vegetable-fruit mixture over the couscous, then pour the liquid from the pot over the mixture. Arrange the spiced chicken on top.
Cover and cook for 45 minutes or until the chicken has cooked through. Let rest for 10 minutes, covered, before serving.
To serve, drizzle the chicken with oil and garnish with the chopped parsley or chives.
NOTE: To make the ras el hanout (3 1/2 tablespoons), combine the following ingredients in a small bowl: 1 tablespoon sweet paprika, 1 1/2 teaspoons smoked Spanish paprika (I didn’t know there was more than one kind of paprika… I just used regular old paprika for both of these), 1 teaspoon salt, 1 teaspoon ground cumin, 1 teaspoon ground coriander, 1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric, 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger, 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon, 1/2 teaspoon ground allspice, 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper, 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper, 1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom; mix well. Store in an airtight container for up to 6 months.
And that’s it. Your complete dinner, in one dish, ready to serve. I wish I’d remembered to take a picture, as it is a colorful dish, but oh well. Enjoy!