Quick and Easy Recipes

North African Chicken Couscous

Start to finish: 1 hour 15 minutes (30 minutes active)
Servings: 6
In Tunisia, couscous is vibrant, bright, and topped with stews at once savory, spicy, earthy and sweet. Based on the couscous dishes we learned there, we developed this recipe using an 8-quart pot fitted with a stackable steamer insert that sits on top. If you don’t own one, a large pot and a folding steamer basket worked well, too. Whisking the liquid from the stew into the steamed couscous is a key step, deeply flavoring the grain-like pasta and helping it stay light, fluffy and distinct.

We especially liked this dish made with our homemade harissa (see recipe here ). Among store-bought brands, we preferred DEA, which is sold in a tube and in cans. We start the recipe using ¼ cup of harissa to flavor the stew, then finish by mixing another ¼ cup into the stew liquid just before whisking it with the steamed couscous. If your harissa is particularly spicy or you prefer less heat, reduce the second addition of harissa.
Don’t worry about the couscous falling through the steamer basket holes. The lightly oiled, partially hydrated specks hold together enough that they won’t fall through. Also, don’t stir the stew during simmering. The vegetables better retain their shape and flavor when cooked on top of the chicken, rather than submerged in liquid.


2 cups couscous
4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided, plus extra to serve
Kosher salt and ground black pepper
1½ tablespoons ground turmeric
2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs, trimmed and halved crosswise
1 pound Yukon Gold potatoes, cut into 1½-inch chunks
6 medium carrots, peeled, halved lengthwise and cut into 2-inch pieces
1 large red onion, root end intact, peeled and cut into 8 wedges
2 jalapeño chilies, stemmed and sliced into thin rounds
6 medium garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons tomato paste
½ cup harissa, divided (see note)
Lemon wedges, to serve


Directions :

1. In a medium bowl, combine the couscous and 2 tablespoons of oil, rubbing with your fingers until the couscous is evenly coated. Stir in 1¼ cups water and ¾ teaspoon salt. Let stand for 15 minutes.
2. Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, stir together the turmeric and 1 teaspoon each salt and pepper. Add the chicken and toss. Set aside for 15 minutes. In a large bowl, combine the potatoes, carrots, onion, 1 tablespoon of the remaining oil and 1 teaspoon each salt and pepper. Toss, then set aside.
3. Stir the couscous to separate the granules, then mound it in a steamer insert or basket that fits onto or into an 8-quart pot. Set aside. Set the pot over medium-high, then heat the remaining 1 tablespoon oil until barely smoking. Add the jalapeños and cook, stirring, until slightly softened, about 1 minute. Add the garlic, tomato paste and ¼ cup of the harissa and cook, stirring, until beginning to brown, 1 to 2 minutes.
4. Add 2 cups water and bring to a simmer. Place the chicken in the pot in an even layer, then top with the vegetables and any liquid in the bowl; do not stir. Bring to a simmer, then set the steamer insert with the couscous on the pot; if using a folding steamer basket, set it directly on the vegetables. Cover, reduce to low and cook at a gentle simmer until the chicken and vegetables are tender, about 45 minutes; do not stir the couscous or the stew.
5. Remove the steamer basket and transfer the couscous to a large bowl; cover with foil. Stir the vegetables and chicken, cover and let stand 5 minutes.
6. Use a slotted spoon to transfer the chicken and vegetables to a large bowl; taste and season with salt and pepper. Measure out 2 cups of the cooking liquid from the pot, add the remaining ¼ cup harissa to it and stir to combine.
7. Whisk the couscous until no clumps remain, then whisk in the cooking liquid-harissa mixture. Taste and season with salt and pepper. Transfer to a large, deep platter and make a well in the center. Spoon the chicken and vegetables into the well. Drizzle with oil and serve with lemon wedges.

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