Couscous With Chicken, Summer Vegetables & Caramelized Onions

Day PartDinner
Menu PartEntree
Cuisine TypeMediterranean

Chef Joanne Weir
Copita Tequileria y Comida
Sausalito, Calif.

In a workshop on the power of the Moroccan table, chef and cookbook author Joanne Weir demonstrated the spicy, nutritious and wholesome dishes that characterize this North African cuisine. Couscous, in all its variations, is probably the country’s signature preparation, and shares its name with the grain that is the basis of the dish. Here, the couscous pairs with chicken and summer vegetables for a seasonal spin.


1 cup dry chickpeas
4 cups couscous
1 chicken (about 3 1/2 lb.), cut into 8 pieces
2 large pinches saffron threads, divided
1/4 tsp. turmeric
6 large onions, quartered
5 tbsp. unsalted butter, divided
18 sprigs cilantro, tied together
4 cinnamon sticks
1 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 cup honey
1/4 lb. raisins
4 carrots, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
4 zucchini, cut into 1-inch pieces
Harissa, to taste
Salt and pepper, to taste


1. Soak chickpeas overnight. The following day, cover chickpeas with cold water and cook until tender, about 1 hour; drain.
2. In large colander, rinse couscous well with cold water. Drain quickly. Return couscous to a 13 by 9-inch baking pan and let sit 15 minutes. Using your hands, work grains by lifting and rubbing gently to separate them. Rake grains gently.
3. In bottom of couscousiere, place chicken pieces, 2 teaspoons salt, 1 teaspoon pepper, 1 large pinch saffron, turmeric, 1 quartered onion, 1 tablespoon butter, cilantro and cinnamon sticks. Cook, covered, for 5 minutes. Add chickpeas and 8 cups water. Cover and simmer 1 hour.
4. Meanwhile, slice remaining 5 onions and place in large frying pan with 2 1/2 cups water. Cover tightly and steam 5 minutes. Remove the cover and drain onions.
5. When chicken has cooked for 1 hour, transfer 1 cup of broth to pan with onions along with ground cinnamon, 1/2 teaspoon pepper, 1 teaspoon salt, 2 tablespoons butter and honey. Mix well and cook uncovered 5 minutes. Add raisins and simmer covered for 30 minutes.
6. Place 2 pieces cheesecloth in top of couscousiere. Slowly dribble couscous into steamer. Steam slowly for 20 minutes.
7. After steaming couscous 20 minutes, transfer into baking pan again. Mix 1 cup cold water and 1 teaspoon salt. Sprinkle the salted water over couscous. With oiled hands, separate and break up lumps by lifting grains gently. Allow couscous to dry 10 minutes.
8. Remove cover from onions and continue cooking until liquid is gone and onions have reduced to a thick syrupy glaze, about 20 minutes. Reserve.
9. At this point, the chicken has cooked for approximately 1 to 1 1/2 hours. Thirty minutes before serving, bring broth to a gentle boil. Add carrots and zucchini to chicken. Add couscous back into steamer and steam couscous for 15 minutes. Reheat onions.
10. Blend 2 tablespoons of remaining butter with remaining 1 large pinch saffron and dot couscous with butter during last 5 minutes.
11. To serve, transfer couscous onto serving platter and toss well. Form a well in center of couscous. Place chicken in well and top with onions. Season broth with salt and add harissa to taste. Strain. Moisten the couscous with a little of the broth and serve the remainder on the side.

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