I enjoy trying a vast variety of foods, never limiting myself to one regional cuisine or the next. My roots will always be southern-based and you’ll typically find the traditional ingredients somehow incorporated. Last year, I taught a cooking class at Williams-Sonoma and one of the salads I prepared contained tri-color couscous. I am a lover of couscous and why no one is really clear as to where it originated, that doesn’t keep me from indulging whenever it’s in my presence.
The general public may often confuse it for rice but it is not, but closer to a pasta of sorts. The tiny granules are actually bits of durum wheat, which is also the grain ground into semolina flour, which is commonly used for making pasta. Voila!
I prefer the Israeli couscous, which is a larger granule with a fluffier texture. Today’s blog post was inspired by my desire for something hearty but not heavy and that was perfect for this ‘sweater weather’ we’ve been experiencing in Middle Tennessee. Brrr! So when scurrying through the isles of the supermarket I discovered sage for a dollar, carrots are always cheap-er, and some button mushrooms that were just screaming to be picked-up, so I obliged. I typically always go for shallots when a recipe calls for onion. I love their mild sweetness with just enough of that sharp onion tang,and they won’t leave you with offensive breath. Score!
This dish may look and feel slightly overwhelming but don’t allow it to be. Read it all the way through before tackling and ‘mis en place’. You’ll be thankful you did. It’s 2014 and you’re conquering your cooking fears. There’s a chef in all of us just screaming to get out. Open the door.
Sage Roasted Chicken, CousCous, & Cabernet Mushroom Reduction
1 lb skin-on chicken breast
1 T. Olive Oil + 1 tsp
2 T. unsalted butter
2 stems fresh sage leaves
kosher salt & fresh ground black pepper to taste
1.5 peeled carrot medallions
4 medium shallots peeled & quartered
2 T. Olive Oil
kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste
5 oz. tri-color Israeli CousCous
1 cup chicken stock
1 T. unsalted butter
smidgen of kosher salt
1 cup quartered button mushrooms
1/2 cup cabernet sauvignon wine (or a syrah/malbec)
3 T. cubed, chilled unsalted butter
smidgen of kosher salt to taste
1. Pre-heat oven to 400. Rinse chicken under cold water and pat dry. Season to taste with salt and pepper on both sides. Set aside. In a medium saute pan on medium-high heat, heat olive oil until it begins to spread, about 20 seconds. Add butter, allow to completely melt while swishing pan lightly in a circular motion. Once butter is melted and you have a nice sizzle lay the chicken skin side down gently. Snuggle the sage stems around the chicken. Let the chicken brown on the skin side checking it occasionally, as we do not wish to eat burned chicken. Once Chicken is ‘golden brown delicious’ flip it over and allow it to finish in the oven. Use a thermometer to check temp. 165 degrees is safe but I prefer 155 or so and allow for ‘carry-over’ cooking.
2. Get your water for the couscous on the stove. Rinse, peel and cut your vegetables accordingly. On a sheet pan toss your carrots and shallots in the olive oil and season with salt in pepper. Roast for about 15-20 minutes on 400 until they are fork tender. Simply follow cooking directions on the back of the box for couscous and set aside once finished. taste for seasoning. Once veggies are finished, toss them into your fluffly couscous and combine. If you have it, a little chopped parsley, leftover sage would be nice thrown in to this mix.
3. Using your oven mitt remove your chicken and sage leaves from the pan, set aside. Return your pan to a medium heat, if you need a little more olive oil to sautee the mushrooms add a little now. Toss in the mushrooms and just cook until they get a little color on them, about 2 minutes. Add in red wine and allow to reduce by half. If splatter is occurring then slightly reduce heat. Once wine is reduced, remove your pan from the heat and add the butter. Using a wooden spatula vigorously stir butter into the sauce until completely melted. The wine should begin to thicken and coat your spoon. Timing is very crucuial as your sauce will break if butter is not combined quickly. You are relying on the fat content to emulsify the sauce.
4. Spoon your couscous mixture onto the center of your plate, piling in a mole hill fashion. Lie your chicken breast vertically along the side of the hill and ladle your mushroom cabernet reduction across the chicken. Grab a glass of that Cabernet and the rest is history. This dish would be perfect for a dinner-for-two. Also known as Valentine’s Day. Enjoy!