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In Tunisia, couscous is brighter, lighter, and richer in flavor.
Milk Street Bowtie North African Chicken Couscous

North African Chicken Couscous

1 hour 15 minutes 30 minutes active

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North African Chicken Couscous

Free

We got an education in couscous in Tunisia, including a lesson from Amel Cherif, a home cook who showed us the basics of making couscous light and flavorful at her apartment on the outskirts of Tunis. For our version, we use 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 p. xxx). Among store-bought brands, we preferred DEA, which is sold in a tube and in cans. We start the recipe using 1/4 cup of harissa to flavor the stew, then finish by mixing another 1/2 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.

6

Servings

Tip

Don't worry about the couscous falling through the steamer basket holes. By the time it's in the basket it's already coated with oil and partially hydrated, which binds it together enough to stay put. Also don't stir the stew during simmering. The vegetables hold their shape and flavor better when cooking on the surface.

1 hour 15 minutes

30 minutes active

2 cups medium couscous
4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided, plus extra to serve
3 1/4 cups water, divided
Kosher salt and ground black pepper
1 1/2 tablespoons ground turmeric
2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs, trimmed and cut in half
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 thinly sliced
6 medium garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1/2 cup harissa (more or less, to taste), divided
Lemon wedges, to serve
Ingredients
  • 2

    cups medium couscous

  • 4

    tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided, plus extra to serve

  • cups water, divided

  • Kosher salt and ground black pepper

  • tablespoons ground turmeric

  • 2

    pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs, trimmed and cut in half

  • 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 thinly sliced

  • 6

    medium garlic cloves, minced

  • 2

    tablespoons tomato paste

  • ½

    cup harissa (more or less, to taste), divided

  • Lemon wedges, to serve

Directions
  1. 01
    In a medium bowl, combine the couscous and 2 tablespoons of the olive oil, rubbing with your fingers until coated. Stir in 1¼ cups of the water and ¼ teaspoon salt. Let stand for 15 minutes.
    See Demo
    North African Chicken Couscous 1
  2. 02
    Meanwhile, in a medium bowl stir together the turmeric and ½ teaspoon salt and 1 teaspoon pepper. Add the chicken and toss to coat. Set aside for 15 minutes. In a large bowl, combine the potatoes, carrots, onion, 1 tablespoon of the remaining oil, and ½ teaspoon salt and 1 teaspoon pepper. Toss to coat, then set aside.
  3. 03
    Stir the couscous to separate the granules, then mound it in a steamer insert or basket that fits into an 8-quart pot. Set aside. Set the 8-quart pot over medium-high and heat the remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil until just smoking. Add the jalapeños and cook, stirring occasionally, until slightly softened, about 1 minute. Add the garlic, tomato paste and ¼ cup of the harissa to the pot and cook, stirring, until the mixture begins to brown, 1 to 2 minutes.
    See Demo
    08 30 17 Cpk 154
  4. 04
    Add the remaining 2 cups water and bring to a simmer. Place the chicken in the pot, then top with the vegetables and any liquid in the bowl; do not stir. Bring to a simmer, then set the steamer insert or basket with the couscous on the pot; if using a folding steamer basket, set it directly on the vegetables. Cover, reduce to low and cook, maintaining a gentle simmer, until the chicken and vegetables are tender, about 45 minutes; do not stir the couscous or the stew. Remove the steamer basket and transfer the couscous to a large bowl; cover with foil to keep warm. Stir the vegetables into the chicken, cover and let sit for 5 minutes.
  5. 05
    Use a slotted spoon to transfer the chicken and vegetables to a large bowl; taste and season with salt and pepper. Measure 2 cups of the cooking liquid in the pot. Stir the remaining ¼ cup harissa into it. Whisk the couscous until no clumps remain, then whisk in the 2 cups cooking liquid. Taste and season with salt and pepper. Transfer the couscous to a large, deep platter and make a well at the center. Spoon the chicken and vegetables into the well. Drizzle with olive oil and serve with lemon wedges.
    See Demo
    08 30 17 Cpk 524
Tip: Don't worry about the couscous falling through the steamer basket holes. By the time it's in the basket it's already coated with oil and partially hydrated, which binds it together enough to stay put. Also don't stir the stew during simmering. The vegetables hold their shape and flavor better when cooking on the surface.
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North African Chicken Couscous

Get Ready to Cook

6

Servings

1 hour 15 minutes

30 minutes active

Tip

Don't worry about the couscous falling through the steamer basket holes. By the time it's in the basket it's already coated with oil and partially hydrated, which binds it together enough to stay put. Also don't stir the stew during simmering. The vegetables hold their shape and flavor better when cooking on the surface.

Ingredients
  • 2

    cups medium couscous

  • 4

    tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided, plus extra to serve

  • cups water, divided

  • Kosher salt and ground black pepper

  • tablespoons ground turmeric

  • 2

    pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs, trimmed and cut in half

  • 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 thinly sliced

  • 6

    medium garlic cloves, minced

  • 2

    tablespoons tomato paste

  • ½

    cup harissa (more or less, to taste), divided

  • Lemon wedges, to serve

Step 1 of 5

Coat the couscous

2
cups medium couscous
2
tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
cups water
¾
teaspoon kosher salt

In a medium bowl, combine the couscous and 2 tablespoons of the olive oil, rubbing with your fingers until coated. Stir in 1¼ cups of the water and ¼ teaspoon salt. Let stand for 15 minutes.

Step 2 of 5

Coat the chicken and vegetables

tablespoons ground turmeric
2
teaspoons kosher salt
2
teaspoons ground black pepper
2
pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs, trimmed and cut in half
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
1
tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

Meanwhile, in a medium bowl stir together the turmeric and ½ teaspoon salt and 1 teaspoon pepper. Add the chicken and toss to coat. Set aside for 15 minutes. In a large bowl, combine the potatoes, carrots, onion, 1 tablespoon of the remaining oil, and ½ teaspoon salt and 1 teaspoon pepper. Toss to coat, then set aside.

Step 3 of 5

Stir the couscous and cook

1
tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
2
jalapeño chilies, stemmed and thinly sliced
6
medium garlic cloves, minced
2
tablespoons tomato paste
¼
cup harissa

Stir the couscous to separate the granules, then mound it in a steamer insert or basket that fits into an 8-quart pot. Set aside. Set the 8-quart pot over medium-high and heat the remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil until just smoking. Add the jalapeños and cook, stirring occasionally, until slightly softened, about 1 minute.


Add the garlic, tomato paste and ¼ cup of the harissa to the pot and cook, stirring, until the mixture begins to brown, 1 to 2 minutes.

Step 4 of 5

Continue to cook

2
cups water

Add the remaining 2 cups water and bring to a simmer. Place the chicken in the pot, then top with the vegetables and any liquid in the bowl; do not stir. Bring to a simmer, then set the steamer insert or basket with the couscous on the pot; if using a folding steamer basket, set it directly on the vegetables. Cover, reduce to low and cook, maintaining a gentle simmer, until the chicken and vegetables are tender, about 45 minutes; do not stir the couscous or the stew.


Remove the steamer basket and transfer the couscous to a large bowl; cover with foil to keep warm. Stir the vegetables into the chicken, cover and let sit for 5 minutes.

Step 5 of 5

Transfer, season, and serve

¼
cup harissa

Use a slotted spoon to transfer the chicken and vegetables to a large bowl; taste and season with salt and pepper. Measure 2 cups of the cooking liquid in the pot. Stir the remaining ¼ cup harissa into it. Whisk the couscous until no clumps remain, then whisk in the 2 cups cooking liquid. Taste and season with salt and pepper.


Transfer the couscous to a large, deep platter and make a well at the center. Spoon the chicken and vegetables into the well. Drizzle with olive oil and serve with lemon wedges.

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