WOW, was this good! According to Milk Street where we found this recipe, Palestinian maftoul, a pasta similar to pearl couscous, inspired this quick and easy one-pot meal. The wheaty flavor and aroma of the couscous is greatly enhanced by toasting until the seed-sized bits are richly browned before they’re cooked pilaf-style.
RULE No. 25: Caramelize Pasta For Deeper, Richer Flavor.
A sauté of onions, allspice and cumin creates a flavorful base for simultaneously poaching boneless chicken thighs and steaming the toasted couscous. Our homemade chicken stock, in place of the 2 cups of water, also added an enriching depth of flavor. (I noticed the online version included cinnamon instead of cumin and added tomato paste.)
Oh, and that pomegranate molasses adds a perky brightness and pop of “yummy” so don’t omit it at the end, and as a drizzled garnish. My one little complaint would be to increase the amount of chicken by about 50% to 1 1/2 pounds of thighs.
Toasted Pearl Couscous with Chicken and Chickpeas
- 3 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil, divided
- 1 cup pearl couscous
- 1 med. yellow onion, halved and thinly sliced
- 4 med. garlic cloves, chopped
- 3 large carrots, peeled, quartered lengthwise and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
- Kosher salt and ground black pepper
- 1/2 tsp. ground allspice
- 1 Tbsp. ground cumin
- 1 lb. boneless, skinless chicken thighs, trimmed and halved
- 2 cups chicken broth, preferably homemade
- 2 bay leaves
- 15 ½-oz. can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
- 1 tsp. pomegranate molasses
- 1 cup lightly packed fresh flat-leaf parsley, roughly chopped
- In a large Dutch oven over medium-high, heat 1 tablespoon of oil until shimmering. Add the couscous and cook, stirring, until golden brown, about 3 minutes. Transfer to a small bowl.
- In the same pot over medium-high, heat the remaining 2 tablespoons oil until shimmering. Add the garlic and cook, stirring until beginning to brown, about 30 seconds.
- Add the onion, carrots, 2 teaspoons salt and 1 teaspoon pepper, then cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions are well-browned, 3 to 5 minutes.
- Add the cumin and allspice, then cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 30 seconds.
- Stir in the chicken, bay leaves, and 2 cups broth (or water). Bring to a boil, then cover, reduce to medium-low and simmer for 5 minutes.
- Stir in the couscous, cover and simmer until the chicken is opaque when cut into and the couscous is tender but not mushy, about 8 minutes.
- Off heat, stir in the chickpeas, pomegranate molasses and half the parsley. Remove and discard the bay leaves. Taste and season with salt and pepper.
- Transfer to a serving bowl, then sprinkle with the remaining parsley. Serve with additional pomegranate molasses for drizzling.
Tip: Don’t stir the onion too often as it cooks. Infrequent stirring allows the slices to brown deeply; this caramelization is essential for developing rich flavor in the dish.
Adapted from a recipe by Milk Street “The New Rules” cookbook