Friday, November 1, 2013

Chicken and Vegetables with Couscous

When my mother was starting her family, there were two standard cookbooks that women across the country kept in their kitchens: Better Homes New Cookbook and The Joy of Cooking. They were chock full of basic recipes for chicken pot pie, meatloaves, birthday cakes, etc.  They told ladies how to host the perfect dinner party, what drinks to make, and how to make food fun for kids. I loved to flip through those glossy pictures and dream about making the shiny salad molds with fruit floating magically inside lime-green, jiggly Jello.  How did they do that?

Well, I have to say I have moved on from dreams of Jello molds and meatloaves.  One of the best gifts I received before I was married has become my go-to cookbook, The New Basics Cookbook by Julie Rosso and Sheila Lukins (  They are the same two ladies who also wrote The Silver Palate Cookbook and The Silver Palate Good Times Cookbook.  It has become the new classic and a must-have in every kitchen.  I am never surprised to find it in my friends' homes. I guess it's our generation's Joy of Cooking.  If you don't have it, go out and get it.  It is huge and has a wealth of recipes to choose from. However, what's unique about it is that while it contains your standard recipes for roasted chicken and chocolate chip cookies, it also tests your palates with flavors from other parts of the world, making dinner time much more interesting.

One of my favorite recipes in the fall is Chicken and Vegetables with Couscous.  It is similar to a stew with chicken and lots of vegetables but has a Moroccan-flavored broth that is soaked up by the couscous.
In my version here, I didn't have zucchini so I substituted eggplants. Those buggers won't stop growing in my garden, despite the cooler weather. I shouldn't complain because they taste fantastic.  I also used Israeli couscous because it was handy.  Normally, I serve it on plain couscous,but this worked just as well. Serve with Naan bread and enjoy!

(If you have your own copy of the cookbook, you'll see I halved the recipe; it makes a lot even when halved)
1 package of boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 package of boneless, skinless chicken thighs
2 Tablespoons olive oil
1 onion, diced
3 cloves of garlic, coarsely chopped
4 cups of Chicken Broth
2 cinnamon sticks
1 teaspoon curry powder
1 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
Freshly ground black pepper and salt
1 carrots peeled and diced
1 zucchini (or eggplant), diced
1 large white turnip, peeled and diced
1 red bell pepper, cored, seeded, and diced
3 plum tomatoes, seeded and diced
1/2 cup golden raisins
Steamed couscous
2 Tablespoons chipped fresh Italian (flat-leaf) parsley

1.  Rinse the chicken pieces and pat dry.
2.  Heat the oil in a large dutch oven or stock pot over medium heat.  Cook until the chicken looks golden on both sides. Transfer to another plate.  Don't worry about it not being cooked through.  You will soon be adding it right back into the pot to finish cooking.
3.  Turn the temperature down to medium-low and add the onions and the garlic.  Cook for 10 minutes, stirring the onions occasionally to make sure they don't stick to the bottom of the pan. You don't want to cook it at a temperature that's too high either or the onions will brown.
4.  Once the onions look soft and translucent, add the chicken broth and spices through to the salt and pepper.  Slowly bring the broth to a boil.  Then, continue boiling for 5 minutes. It will seem like it's taking forever to come to a boil.  You'll begin thinking those people were right when they said a watched pot never boils.  It will, just be patient.  While you're waiting, I would use the time to chop up the vegetables (which is also tedious but gives you something to do) and then have a sip of wine.
5.  Continue cooking on medium-low and let the mixture simmer.  Add your chicken thighs or other dark meat in at this point along with your harder vegetables like the carrots, zucchini, turnip, and bell pepper.  Simmer for 10 minutes more.
6.  Add your chicken breasts, tomatoes, and raisins.  Simmer an additional 10 minutes.
7.  Serve the stew over your steamed and hot couscous with sprinkles of freshly chopped parsley.  Don't forget to remove the cinnamon sticks!