Cous­cous and chicken dish, easy and quick

The Hamilton Spectator - - FOOD - SARA MOUL­TON

With Ra­madan, Islam’s an­nual holy month, upon us, I thought I’d of­fer up some cous­cous, a dish that orig­i­nated among North Africa’s Ber­bers a thou­sand or so years ago.

The term refers to a kind of grain as well as to the broad range of recipes — a com­bined dish of broth, veg­eta­bles and red meat, chicken or fish — served with that grain.

Cous­cous is the na­tional dish of Morocco, where it pos­sesses “a quasi-mys­ti­cal char­ac­ter,” ac­cord­ing to Claudia Ro­den in “Arabesque: A Taste of Morocco, Turkey & Le­banon.” She writes: “Morocco’s Ber­bers call it keskou, a name said to be de­rived from the sound steam makes as it passes through the grain. It is served on all great oc­ca­sions, both happy and sad. It can be very sim­ple, with the cous­cous plus just one veg­etable such as fresh green peas, or it can be quite grandiose with stuffed pi­geons sit­ting on a moun­tain of cous­cous mixed with al­monds and raisins.”

The stew here con­sists of chicken thighs, frozen ar­ti­choke hearts crisped up in the chicken fat, green olives, chicken broth and le­mon wedges. Why le­mon wedges in­stead of le­mon juice? Be­cause as they bake among the other in­gre­di­ents, the wedges im­part a more lemony flavour to the dish.

What’s won­der­ful about this dish (be­sides its lus­cious­ness) is that it calls for very lit­tle time and work on your part. You can brown the chicken thighs while prep­ping the rest of the in­gre­di­ents, a step that helps get the dish into the oven that much faster. And the sauce makes it­self as the chicken bakes.

The fi­nal touch? Chopped fresh herbs. And don’t skimp on them. They brighten up the whole she­bang.

Cous­cous with Baked Chicken Thighs, Green Olives, Le­mons and Ar­ti­choke Hearts

MAKES 4 TO 6 SERV­INGS

3 ta­ble­spoons ex­tra-vir­gin olive oil, di­vided 8 small bone-in chicken thighs (3 to 3 ½ pounds) Kosher salt One 9-ounce pack­age de­frosted frozen ar­ti­choke hearts (about 2 cups), quar­tered and pat­ted dry 1 tbsp minced gar­lic ½ cup green olives 1 le­mon cut into 8 wedges, plus 1½ tbsp fresh le­mon juice 1½ cups chicken broth One 10-ounce box in­stant cous­cous ½ cup coarsely chopped flat leaf pars­ley, ci­lantro or mint, or a mix

Start to fin­ish: 1 hour (40 ac­tive)

Pre­heat oven to 350 F. In a large oven­proof skil­let heat 2 ta­ble­spoons of the oil over medi­umhigh heat. Re­duce the heat to medium, and work­ing in two batches, sea­son the chicken with salt and add it to the skil­let skin side down. Cook un­til the skin is golden brown, about six min­utes. Turn the pieces over and cook them for four min­utes. Trans­fer the chicken to a plate and re­peat with the re­main­ing chicken. Pour off all but 2½ ta­ble­spoons of the fat.

Add the ar­ti­chokes to the skil­let and cook over medium heat, stir­ring oc­ca­sion­ally, un­til they are lightly browned, about five min­utes. Add gar­lic and cook, stir­ring one minute. Re­turn the chicken to the pan, skin side up, add the olives, le­mon wedges and chicken broth.

Put the skil­let on the mid­dle shelf of the oven and bake the chicken for 20 min­utes or un­til the chicken is just cooked through. While the chicken is bak­ing, pre­pare the cous­cous fol­low­ing the in­struc­tions on the back of the pack­age, adding the re­main­ing ta­ble­spoon oil as in­structed. Fluff up the cous­cous with a fork be­fore serv­ing.

To serve, mound the cous­cous on each plate and top with some of the chicken, ar­ti­chokes, le­mon wedges and olives, some of the broth from the skil­let and a gen­er­ous sprin­kling of the herbs.

Per serv­ing: 621 calo­ries (196 from fat); 22 grams fat (3 g sat­u­rated; 0 g trans fats); 130 mil­ligrams choles­terol; 775 mg sodium; 65 g car­bo­hy­drate; 10 g fi­bre; 1 g sugar; 39 g pro­tein.

SARA MOUL­TON, THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Cous­cous is a dish that orig­i­nated among North Africa’s Ber­bers a thou­sand or so years ago. The term refers to a kind of grain as well as to the broad range of recipes served with that grain.

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