Couscous à la française, inspiré de l’Afrique du Nord, pour Stéphanie

In France they just call it Couscous (or occasionally Couscous Royale when it’s served with chicken drumsticks and merguez sausages along with the standard cuts of lamb). You can think of it as a vegetable-prominent, lamb and tomato stew served atop a copious bed of couscous grains, with harissa-spiked broth on the side.

I watched a handful of YouTube videos to familiarize myself with the dish, some in French, some in English in the French style, and some in English in the Moroccan style. One of my favorites fell into that third category, Couscous with Seven Vegetables / كسكس سبع خضار by Cooking with Alia.

Screenshot from Couscous with Seven Vegetables by Cooking With Alia
Screenshot from Couscous with Seven Vegetables

With that research under my belt, combined with what I had on hand, what I was able to find at Trader Joe’s, and what Stephanie prefers (lamb 👎, chickpeas 👍), I cobbled together the following recipe.

For the couscous grains

Prepare according to the instructions on the box. Drizzle with olive oil to taste. But don’t tell Alia (or Andy) that I didn’t use a couscoussier! Sometimes you have to pick your culinary battles.

For the chicken

Bone the thighs and save the bones for the stew below. Toss thighs in the spice mix. Roast at 375F until cooked to your liking, about 40-50 minutes. In the future, I’d also remove the skin (and roast separately as crispy chicken skin snacks)…or just get boneless, skinless thighs and skip using the bones in the stew.

For the stew

Watch some of the videos I linked to above to get a sense of how to prep the zucchinis, turnips, carrots, and sweet potatoes. You basically want large, uniformly-sized “spears” or quarters. In a large 8-quart pot over medium-high heat, cook the onion in the olive oil, adding the chicken bones, ginger, and spices after the onion begins to take on color. Continue cooking for a few more minutes, before adding the diced tomatoes, tomato paste, stock, and water. Simmer for 15 minutes, and then add the turnips, carrots, and sweet potatoes. Simmer for another 15 minutes before adding the chickpeas and zucchinis. If any of the vegetables are done sooner than the others (I found that the sweet potatoes started to disintegrate surprisingly fast), simply remove them to a plate while the others continue cooking. Simmer until all the vegetables are done. Remove the chicken bones and discard.

To serve

Put a scoop of couscous grains on each plate, drizzle with some of the broth (but don’t drown!), top with chicken, put one of each of the vegetable spears around the chicken, and “garnish” with chickpeas. In a separate small serving bowl, ladle some of the broth, optionally spiced with 1-2 teaspoons of harissa, for personalized “saucing” à table.

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