This week, I thumbed through a cookbook I got from the library, trying to find a good cold-weather recipe...and found a whole damn bunch of them! The Food52 Cookbook is organized seasonally, and so I had no shortage of options**. But since I'm super-into squash right now, I went for their "best couscous dish," Fregola Sarda with Caramelized Squash and Charmoula.
Before a couple of weeks ago, I had never cut a squash open before. I had, you know, carved Jack o' Lanterns, but an actual squash intimidated the hell out of me. I didn't know how to peel one, how to cut one, how to make sure all of the seeds were done away with, without getting my hands all goopy. But I loved the warm taste, the smell in the kitchen while one was cooking...a squash is late autumn and winter to me. And if all one has to do is cut one up, throw it in the oven with some oil and salt, and let it be for a while to make a super-tasty meal? OK, I decided, if I'm working on getting comfortable in the kitchen, this was something I needed to learn how to do. (Thanks to The Kitchn for a great squash tutorial!)
And so after my first try with butternut squash two weeks ago, and making Pumpkin Butter with The Kid last week (also Food52), this recipe sounded like an absolute winner. It's getting cold and dreary here in MI, and some squash was just what my kitchen needed.
But I also had a couple of changes I needed to make for various reasons: grocery availability, family dietary needs, and so on. And so, since I'm trying to work on being zen in the kitchen, I did what I needed to do and came out with a damn good dinner that made everyone around the table happy. Seriously, The Kid gobbled it down, even though the one part of the dish he helped me make was the one thing that didn't wind up on his plate.
It's no Fregola Sarda, but it was awesome. Recipe after the jump. (Don't be intimidated by the list of ingredients. There's a lot of stuff, but not a whole lot of work involved at all.)
Poached Chicken with Charmoula, Israeli Couscous, and Butternut Squash
|Butternut squash is pretty and I love it.|
For the couscous
- 1 medium butternut squash
- 1 8-oz box Israeli couscous (I used Geffen whole wheat Israeli couscous because that's what our grocery store had. You can use regular, but I thought this brand's nuttiness added a great touch to the dish.)
- 1/2 cup chopped walnuts, toasted
- 2 to 4 chicken breasts
- 2 cloves garlic, smashed
- a few sprigs fresh parsley
- 1 teaspoon salt
For the charmoula sauce
- 1 tablespoon ground cumin
- 1 medium garlic clove
- 1 1/2 cups cilantro
- 1/2 cup fresh parsley
- 1 teaspoon sweet smoked paprika
- 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- Zest of 1/2 lemon
- Juice of 1 lemon
- 1/8-1/4 cup olive oil
- Preheat the oven to 475 degrees. Peel and seed the squash. Cut into a 1-inch dice. Toss the squash with about 2 tablespoons of olive oil and about 1 teaspoon of salt. Spread the squash onto a baking sheet, making sure not to crowd the sheet. Put the squash into the oven for 20-30 minutes, or until fork-tender. (More than a little brown on the bottom is more than OK!) Remove from the oven and let cool.
- Meanwhile, cook the couscous according to the directions on the box.
- Drain the couscous and toss it with the squash and the toasted walnuts.
- Arrange the chicken breasts in a large pot, making sure they aren't crowded--a single layer is best. Scatter the salt, smashed garlic, and parsley on top. Pour enough water into the pot to cover the chicken by at least an inch or so.
- Bring the water to a boil. As soon as the water boils, reduce the heat to low, cover, and cook until the chicken is done, 10-14 minutes. The chicken should measure 165 degrees. Remove the chicken from the pot with a spider or other tool.
- For the chermoula, combine the ingredients in a food processor. Process until they become a smooth sauce. That's it. (The Kid put all of the ingredients into the food processor for me, and took charge of turning it on and off. He loved the smell of the ingredients--"Mama, you have to smell this! It's so lemony!"--but the resulting sauce was too spicy for him.)
- Plate your dinner, spooning the chermoula over the chicken breasts of the folks who will be eating it, the grownups in our family, and leaving the breasts plain for the abstainers, The Kid for us.
* I missed Food Friday, and I made this meal yesterday...I didn't want to lose it!
** I need to buy this book. And its sequel. And the Genius book that's coming out next year. Seriously, there's too much I want to pin on the website. :)