Sunday, April 4, 2010

Cooking Paris Part 4: Moroccan Couscous and Chicken with Forty Cloves of Garlic

Whew!  That's a hefty title, ain't it?  The meal was similarly hefty--and fabulous.
I actually cooked these two dishes a few weeks back, but haven't had a chance to write about them yet.  Let me first say that Ina's chicken recipe says it serves six (and she is never skimpy with her portions), and the couscous says it serves six to eight.  Now, it's really just Greg and me at home, so I halved both recipes.  Oh, wait.  No.  I didn't do that.  I made a huge bowl of couscous and seven pounds of chicken, with all forty cloves of garlic.  I did feed some teacher friends at school that week, though, so nothing went to waste.  Still though--seven pounds of chicken for two people?  That's just silly.

Also silly is saffron and its outrageous price.  I am not alone in this thought, I know.  A friend of mine recently had a similar experience, which you can read about here.  Nonetheless (a word my students like to add unnecessary dashes to), we bit the bullet and bought the saffron.  Four tiny--though stylishly packaged--containers and $15 the poorer.  Greg thinks it adds a specific flavor to the couscous; I'm not convinced--I think it might just make it yellow.  Anyone else have a stance on this issue?
Normally couscous isn't a grain I go wild over, but this recipe was more of a roasted veggie dish stored in a cozy bed of couscous.  That's how I thought of it, anyway.  Plus, couscous is both fun to say and to type.  I made the couscous earlier in the day because it can be served warm or at room temperature (see full recipe below).  The veggies include butternut squash, yellow onion, carrots, and zucchini--all roasted and wonderful.  Scallions are added at the end for a little green zestiness.  Like rice, pasta, or quinoa, couscous needs to be heated in a liquid.  This recipe tells you to pour the heated liquid into a bowl of dried couscous and cover (rather than adding the couscous to a pot of hot liquid).  Simple difference, but it was fun.  Sort of like bread dough rising: you doubt it will really work, but then it does, just perfectly.  The dish was quite tasty and we ate it all week long.

Later that same day I tackled the chicken.  Okay, so let's discuss this "forty cloves of garlic" issue.  That's about three heads of garlic.  Now, if you're my dad, you're already drooling.  My dad adores garlic.  And my mom rolls her eyes at him because she is left smelling my dad who smells like garlic after he eats so, so much of it.  I thought that's how this dish would be.  But: it is not!
You cook the garlic for so long that all its snappiness is coaxed out of it; you are left with deconstructed lumps of unidentified sweetness (we refer to those as DLUS in the biz).  In fact, one of the aforementioned friends from work who was coerced into helping us polish off our leftovers was surprised and shocked when I told her that garlic was a main ingredient to this dish.  She said she hadn't realized there was any garlic at all with the chicken.  See?  DLUS.
A tip for this recipe (also included below): buy pre-peeled garlic.  I hate peeling garlic.  I know you can smash it with the flat of a knife, and Ina suggests you dunk the cloves in boiling water for a minute.  But, really, it always turns out to be a time-consuming process for me.  Then my fingers get sticky and only little bits come off and it reminds me of the frustrating tedium of trying to peel off old wall paper.  It seems like it should be easy, but you can't go any faster.  So, buy the pre-peeled stuff!

Also, now that I've cooked chicken a handful of times, I finally wised up this go around.  I set out two small bowls and filled one with salt and one with pepper.  That way, as I salted and peppered both sides of all seven pounds worth of chicken, I did not have to continually wash and re-wash my hands in order to use the salt and pepper grinders.  Again, I am sure that this is a ridiculous piece of advice and most likely a practice everyone but me uses already, but it was momentarily life-changing for me.  A good trick.
The recipe is simple.  Brown the chicken, brown the garlic, cook the chicken with the garlic, make a sauce.  I made the mistake of putting the larger pieces on top of the cooking pile, so they weren't nearly done when the smaller pieces were.  Pulling out the smaller pieces, I continued to cook the larger ones, using handy-dandy digital thermometer as my guide.  (If you don't have one of those, get one!  They're great.)

Ina suggests making these dishes together, for company.  I don't disagree.

Moroccan Couscous, an Ina Garten Recipe from Barefoot in Paris

2 C diced butternut squash
2 chopped yellow onions
4 diced carrots
2 diced zucchini
2 Tbsp olive oil
Salt and Pepper
1 1/2 C chicken stock
2 Tbsp butter
1/4 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp saffron threads
1 1/2 C couscous
2 scallions, white and green parts, chopped

Preheat oven to 375 F.

Toss squash, onions, carrots, and zucchini with olive oil, 2 tsp salt, and 1 tsp pepper.  Place all onto a baking sheet and roast for 25 to 30 minutes, until all veggies are tender.

In a small saucepan, bring chicken stock to a boil and turn off the heat.  Add the butter, 1 tsp salt, 1/2 tsp pepper, the cumin and saffron.  Steep for at least 15 minutes.

Bring the chicken stock mixture to a boil.  Place the couscous and roasted veggies in a large bowl and pour the hot chicken stock over them.  Cover tightly with plastic wrap and allow to stand at room temp for 15 min.  Add the scallions, toss the couscous and veggies with a fork.  Serve warm or at room temp.

Chicken with Forty Cloves of Garlic, an Ina Garten Recipe from Barefoot in Paris

3 heads or 40 cloves of garlic
7 lbs of chicken pieces (you can use whole chickens or any skin-on pieces you prefer)
Salt and Pepper
1 Tbsp butter
2 Tbsp olive oil
3 Tbsp Cognac, divided
1 1/2 C dry white wine
1 Tbsp fresh thyme
2 Tbsp flour
2 Tbsp heavy cream

Separate the cloves of garlic and drop them into a pot of boiling water for 60 seconds.  Drain the garlic and peel.  Set aside.  (OR: buy pre-peeled garlic.)

Dry chicken with paper towels.  Season with salt and pepper on both sides.  Heat butter and oil in a large pot over medium-high.  In batches, saute the chicken in the fat, skin side down first, until nicely browned (3 to 5 minutes each side).  Turn with tongs or spatula, not a fork.  If the fat is burning, turn heat down to medium.

Remove browned chicken to a plate and add all of the garlic to the pot.  Lower heat and saute for 5 to 10 minutes, turning often, until browned.  Add 2 Tbsp of the Cognac and all the wine, return to a boil, and scrape the brown bits from the bottom of the pan.  Return the chicken to the pot with the juices and sprinkle with the thyme leaves.  Cover and simmer over the lowest heat for about 30 minutes, until all the chicken is done (my bigger pieces took longer).

Remove the chicken to a platter and cover with aluminum foil.  In a small bowl, whisk together 1/2 C of the sauce and the flour and then whisk it back into the sauce in the pot.  Raise the heat, add the remaining tablespoon of Cognac and the cream, and boil for 3 minutes.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  Pour the sauce and the garlic over the chicken and serve hot.

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