Pho - Vietnamese Soup

Pho - Vietnamese Soup
One of our favorite dishes - Pho

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Couscous with Brown Butter and Parsley

Here's another additional side dish I cooked up for our Moroccan feast and another recipe from Williams-Sonoma.  Couscous is to Moroccan food what rice is to Chinese food and absolutely had to be a part of our meal.  I don't have a couscoussier so I just used a large pot and steamer basket that worked fine.

In this recipe the couscous is cooked in the traditional way. While this method is a lot more labor-intensive than instant, you’ll be greatly rewarded with tender, fluffy grains that cannot compare to instant couscous.

2 1/2 cups chicken stock
2 TBSP extra-virgin olive oil
1/8 tsp saffron threads
2 tsp kosher salt, plus more, to taste
1 medium onion, cut into large pieces
2 large carrots, peeled and cut into large pieces
1 celery stalk, cut into large pieces
12 fresh flat-leaf parsley sprigs, plus chopped parsley for serving
3 cups couscous (not instant)
6 TBSP (3/4 stick) unsalted butter

In a pot, combine 2 cups of the stock, the olive oil, saffron and the 2 tsp. salt. Set over medium heat and bring to a simmer, then simmer for 5 minutes, stirring to dissolve the salt. Remove from the heat and let stand at room temperature for 30 minutes to infuse the liquid with the flavor of the saffron.

Fill the bottom of a couscoussier half-full with water. Add the onion, carrots, celery and parsley sprigs and bring to a simmer.

Put the couscous in the terra-cotta tray or in a very large bowl, pour the infused stock over it (if you like, strain the liquid so you won’t have pieces of saffron in your couscous) and let the couscous absorb the liquid, stirring occasionally, for about 15 minutes.

Scoop up some of the couscous and rub it with your fingers to separate any lumps, letting it pour back onto the tray. Keep scooping and rubbing it this way until there are no lumps. Repeatedly separating the couscous into individual grains is an important part of the process, so be diligent and unhurried about this.

Meanwhile, increase the heat under the couscoussier to bring the water to a gentle boil; add more water if needed to maintain the level.

To steam the couscous, put the couscous in the steamer basket set over a plate to catch any grains that might come through (put them back in the basket). Run your fingers lightly over the top to make sure the couscous is evenly distributed, and set it over the gently boiling water. If necessary, carefully wrap a large piece of plastic wrap around the rim of the bottom pot to keep steam from escaping. Once you see steam coming from the top of the couscous, steam for 30 minutes. (Don’t put a lid on the couscous, and don’t stir it.)

Carefully remove the plastic wrap, if you used it, and then the steamer basket; always pull the basket toward you so you don’t get burned by the escaping steam. Spread the couscous in the terra-cotta tray or bowl and let stand until cool enough to handle.

Meanwhile, add enough water to the bottom of the couscoussier to bring its level back to the halfway point. Return to a boil. Clean and dry the steamer basket, discarding any couscous that stuck to it.

Run the couscous through your fingers as you did before to separate all the grains. If you come across any lumps that refuse to separate, discard them. When the couscous is at room temperature, you can begin the second steaming. Return the couscous to the steamer basket, add the plastic wrap if needed and steam for 15 to 30 minutes; the time will depend on how evenly the couscous is steaming. The couscous will take on a sweaty appearance and will feel tender.

Spread the couscous out on the tray or bowl as you did before and let cool. The couscous can be held at room temperature for several hours before the final steaming.

Put the remaining 1/2 cup stock in a spray bottle or in a bowl.

If you have let the couscous stand for a few hours and it is no longer warm, add water to the couscoussier to return it to the original level and bring the water to a gentle boil. Put the couscous into the steamer and steam it until it is warm. Then transfer the couscous to the terra-cotta tray or bowl and run it through your fingers to separate the grains.

To finish the couscous, return the couscous to the basket, set it over the bottom pot and bring the water to a gentle boil. Immediately begin to add the remaining stock, spraying the couscous with 15 to 20 sprays from the spray bottle or drizzling about 2 Tbs. of it over the grains. Continue to add the stock in the same way and stir occasionally for 15 minutes. (For this steaming only, stirring is necessary to fluff the couscous.)

Pour the couscous into the tray or bowl. It should have doubled in size to about 6 cups during the steaming process. Discard the steaming liquid and vegetables.

In a small fry pan over medium heat, melt the butter and continue to heat until it is a rich nutty brown color. Add the butter, to taste, to the couscous, season with salt and stir in chopped parsley. Serve immediately. Serves 6.

Adapted from Mourad: New Moroccan, by Mourad Lahlou (Artisan, 2011) and Williams-Sonoma.

Vegetable Tagine

Here's a side dish we prepared for our Moroccan feast that was also featured in Williams-Sonoma's catalog.  Although I did not have a tagine to steam the vegetables in, I roasted them in the oven in a tall pot piling the veggies up high.  I used the same charmoula sauce I cooked the chicken and chickpeas in and that I bought at WS.

Tagine is an incredibly diverse Moroccan dish that is prepared in a special cooking pot also known by the same name.  The tagine comes in two pieces of thick stoneware. The bottom piece is a large, flat-bottomed bowl with the top piece being domed and is designed to attach to the inside of the bottom piece creating a seal.  The food inside makes a cone-shaped pile that should fill the tagine about halfway and doesn’t touch the inner walls or the lid, so there’s plenty of room for air to circulate.  The two pieces of the tagine make a type of clay oven that would've traditionally been placed into an open fire for cooking. 

Again, tangines (and the charmoula sauce) are available for purchase at Williams-Sonoma and are equally as lovely as they are a unique way of preparing all kinds of foods.

4 1/2 cups Mourad’s spiced tomato and herb braising sauce
3 1/2 lb. trimmed vegetables, such as:
Cipollini onions, 1 inch in diameter
Yukon Gold potatoes, cut into 1 1/2-inch pieces
Baby carrots, 1 1/2 inches long, or large carrots, peeled and cut
  into 1 1/2-inch pieces
Cauliflower, cut into 1-inch florets
Turnips, cut into wedges (optional)
Fennel bulbs, cut into wedges (optional)
1/4 cup raisins (optional)
1/2 cup cooked chickpeas 
Paper-thin slices of raw vegetables used in tagine for garnish
Fennel fronds for garnish (optional)
1 preserved lemon, pulp removed, rind thinly sliced
Crunchy sea salt for sprinkling

In a saucepan over medium heat, simmer the braising sauce, stirring often to prevent scorching, until reduced by one-fourth, 25 to 30 minutes. Remove from the heat.

Position a rack in the bottom of an oven; remove the other racks. Preheat the oven to 325°F.

Layer the vegetables in the tagine, starting with the cipollini onions and placing larger vegetables toward the bottom, where there is more heat. Add the chickpeas and raisins in the middle. As you layer, shape the vegetables into a mound, making sure the lid will fit securely without touching the vegetables. End with the smallest vegetable pieces.

Pour the braising sauce over the vegetables. Put the tagine on a heat diffuser over medium-high heat and bring to a simmer. Place the tagine on a baking sheet, cover with the lid and transfer to the oven. Cook until the vegetables are tender, about 1 hour. Remove the lid. Garnish the tagine with raw vegetable slices, fennel fronds and preserved lemon. Sprinkle with sea salt. Serves 6.

Adapted from Mourad: New Moroccan, by Mourad Lahlou (Artisan, 2011) and Williams-Sonoma.

Chicken Chamoula with Chickpeas

One of my guilty pleasures is to go through the Williams-Sonoma catalog and obsess over their recipes.  The latest one made us want to cook Moroccan all the way.  I found the flavors to be uniquely subtle yet authentic.  It was a nice change from our more traditional dishes and made for some delightful aromas wafting from our kitchen.  I enjoy stepping out of our comfort zone on occasion and trying some more exotic meals for the family to share.  That's what is so wonderful about food...the possibilities are endless.

The Moroccan sauce I used in this dish is known as charmoula, which is a savory blend of tomato puree, olive oil, lemon and spices.  Charmoula is mostly used for preparing tagines as well as for braising poultry and a wide variety of meats. In their infinite wisdom with how they promote their products, Williams-Sonoma's sauce was created by Moroccan-born chef Mourad Lahlou, owner of San Francisco’s award-winning Aziza restaurant and of course is available to purchase online or I found it in their store here in Dallas.

In addition to this different, but really good dish I cooked Williams-Sonoma's   Vegetable Tagine  and I made couscous the traditional way as was also showcased in WS's most current catalog.  Those recipes are to follow and I will explain what tagine in my next post.

It is such a highlight for me when I get one of WS's catalogs in the mail.  I guess I'm just a simpleton at heart, but all I know is I do love me some Williams-Sonoma.  :-)

1 Tbs. canola oil
4 whole chicken legs
Kosher salt, to taste 
1 jar (21 oz.) Mourad’s spiced tomato and herb braising sauce
1 can (14 oz.) chickpeas, drained 
Steamed couscous for serving

In a Dutch oven over medium-high heat, warm the oil. Season the chicken legs with salt. Working in batches, brown the chicken on both sides, about 10 minutes per batch. Transfer to a plate.

Add the braising sauce to the pot and bring to a simmer. Return the chicken to the pot, reduce the heat to low, cover and cook until the chicken is fork-tender, about 2 hours. During the last 15 minutes of cooking, add the chickpeas. Skim the excess fat off the sauce. Serve the chicken and sauce with steamed couscous. Serves 6 to 8.

This recipe is from Williams-Sonoma.

**As a side note, I added 1/4 cup of wine to clean out the the braising sauce jar so as to not waste a drop.  Happy Cooking!