Two summers ago I spent a few days in Marrakech, Morocco on a side trip while visiting Spain. It was July and 110 degrees outside, but the kind people, stunning architecture, bustling markets and delicious food definitely made up for the oppressive heat. Especially the food — olives, preserved lemons, eggplant, dried fruit, refreshing salads, tajines… it was just spectacular! And the spices… oh the spices… the smell permeated the air everywhere I went. Cardamom, cinnamon, turmeric, ginger, saffron, cumin, paprika. I was truly in heaven.
I recently decided to try my hand at recreating some of the flavors I fell in love with that summer and I have to say… I’m pleased with the results. The chicken in this dish is seasoned with a blend of spices you’d find in any market it Marrakech (and your local grocery store) and the couscous, a staple dish in Morocco, is a stunningly beautiful and easy to make sidedish. Most people don’t normally cook with couscous, but I have to tell you… once you try it and see how quick, easy and versatile it is, you’ll definitely have it as a pantry staple.
- 2 pounds of chicken pieces
- 1½ cups of couscous
- 1½ cups of chicken stock*
- ½ cup pomegranate seeds
- ¼ cup chopped scallion
- ¼ cup golden raisins
- ¼ cup pine nuts, lightly toasted**
- olive oil
for the spice mixture:***
- 1 tablespoon cumin
- 1 tablespoon turmeric
- 1 tablespoon paprika
- 1 tablespoon salt
- 1 teaspoon ground coriander
- 1 teaspoon ground ginger
- ½ teaspoon cayenne
- ½ teaspoon cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon pepper
- Heat oven to 375 degrees.
- Mix together all of the ingredients for the spice mix and add just enough olive oil to make it into a thick paste. Pat chicken pieces dry with a paper towel. Rub the spice mixture all over the chicken, lay it out on a roasting pan and allow to sit for 10 minutes.
- Cook chicken for 35-45 minutes depending on the cut and size. (30 minutes for breasts and boneless thighs, 40 minutes for bone-in thighs and legs)
- While chicken is cooking, bring the chicken stock to a boil in a saucepan. When the stock comes to a boil, remove the saucepan from the heat and stir in the couscous and raisins. Cover the saucepan and let it stand for 10 minutes.
- Fluff the couscous, toss with the pine nuts, pomegranate seeds and scallions. Serve with the chicken.
**To toast your pine nuts, in order to release their oils, fragrance and flavor, add them to a pan set over medium-low heat and cook them, stirring constantly, for 2 minutes without any oil. Because pine nuts contain a lot of fat, they spoil very quickly. To keep them fresh for as long as possible, store them in the freezer.
*** Dont stress out if you're missing any one of these spices --- you'll still have delicious chicken... I promise.