It seemed appropriate to start this blog with a recipe I grew up with. This was a typical dish in my home as a child: chicken roasted with lots of garlic over a bed of slow cooked couscous and mushrooms. This is one of those dishes that I’ve made so many times I no longer look at a recipe. As with a lot of my cooking, I season to taste so feel free change things up! In the words of Food Network Chef Michael Smith: “A recipe is merely words on paper; a guideline, a starting point from which to improvise. It cannot pretend to replace the practiced hand and telling glance of a watchful cook. For that reason feel free to stir your own ideas into this dish. When you cook it once, it becomes yours, so personalize it a bit. Add more of an ingredient you like or less of something you don’t like. Try substituting one ingredient for another. Remember words have no flavour, you have to add your own!”
1 bag of Israeli couscous (I use Osem brand)
Chicken stock (I make my own from the bones of the chickens I’ve roasted)
Garlic cloves, chopped for the couscous and whole for the chicken (always use fresh!)
Extra virgin olive oil
1 package of Cremini mushrooms, washed and sliced (you can use any type but I like Cremini’s nutty flavour)
1 onion, minced (I like Vidalia but regular white onions work too)
Freshly ground black pepper
Roasting pan with rack
First, heat the olive oil on medium heat in a heavy bottom frying pan. Sautee the minced onion and sliced mushrooms until the onion becomes translucent and the mushrooms sweat. Add minced garlic and couscous (keep the heat at medium, you don’t want burned garlic). Once the couscous is a nice golden brown, add chicken stock until couscous is submerged. Season generously with salt and pepper. Reduce the heat to medium-low and let the couscous simmer for about 20 minutes, until most of the chicken stock is absorbed. You want your couscous slightly wet when you put it in the oven. If your couscous is too dry you can always drizzle a bit of olive oil on it before putting it in the oven.
While your couscous is simmering you can prepare your chicken and pre heat your oven to 375 F. If your roasting pan isn’t non stick, line it to avoid lengthy clean up process; I like using parchment paper because nothing sticks so no food is wasted. Place your chicken in the rack, make sure there’s no giblets. Drizzle generously with olive oil and grind sea salt and black pepper all over the chicken. If you’re lucky enough to have a partner in the kitchen, ask him/her to flip the bird so you can season both sides. If not, I like using a pair of tongs to flip while keeping my hands clean. Generously season with onion powder, chili flakes and dried oregano then stuff the cavity with some garlic cloves.
Spoon the finished couscous into the bottom of your pan and taste before placing the chicken and rack above. Feel free to add a bit of seasoning but don’t worry if it’s not perfect just yet, the roast drippings will add the final bit of deliciousness. Tent the roast with foil (or place the lid on your pan) and bake for 60-90 minutes on the middle rack (depending on the size of the bird). After an hour or so, peek at your chicken and test for doneness by poking it with a fork. When the juices run clear, uncover and continue to bake until golden brown. *Note: if you are cooking an organic chicken (as I do), the juices may continue to be a bit red even if fully cooked. To confirm doneness, wiggle the leg, if fully cooked, the leg will move freely.
The finished plate 🙂