Friday 17 October 2014
Moroccan Roast Chicken, Couscous Stuffing & Brussels Sprout Slaw
I've always thought that couscous makes a great stuffing for chicken and I hadn't had it in a while. I had also been meaning to make a brussels sprout slaw, which I had seen variations of online and in magazines but never tried before. With this post I am hitting two birds with one stone, so to speak. As I had predicted, the two concepts paired very well together and resulted in a great dinner. This is a bit of a bachelor or date dinner. I say that because you can feed a whole family with one chicken but one chicken can only hold enough stuffing for one or two servings. So it's not a practical dinner concept for a party of three or more. If you've never tried couscous stuffing though, you are in for a treat. It retains a certain level of fluffiness but takes on so much flavour and aromas from the chicken and spices. Dried cranberries, toasted almond slivers and fresh herbs add colour, texture, and more dimensions to the stuffing.
Brussels sprouts are coming up in season this time of year and I love to discover new ways to enjoy classic vegetables. A lot of people don't like brussels sprouts, my parents included. So it's something I never had growing up. When cooked right, brussels sprouts can be delicious. When overcooked they can get kinda mushy, which isn't even near as bad as the sulfuric bitter flavour that they take on. Cooking them just enough is crucial to avoid that spoiled, overcooked flavour. What's great about a brussels sprout slaw is that you don't cook them at all so there is zero risk of that happening. A raw brussels sprout is quite dense, chewy and not at all appetizing. When sliced very finely they can be enjoyed much easier just as they are. A tangy dressing of apple cider vinegar, honey, fresh garlic and extra virgin olive oil spruce them right up. By adding toasted almond slivers and chopped, dried cranberries to the slaw we add crunch and tartness as well as tie in the elements of the stuffing.
The stuffed chicken is the star of the show so let's start there.
1 whole chicken
2 tbsp ground turmeric
1 tbsp ground cumin
1/2 tbsp ground ginger
1/2 tbsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp paprika
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper (optional)
1 cup couscous
1 1/4 cups boiling water
1 tsp olive oil
1/3 cup almond slivers, toasted
1/3 cup dried cranberries
1 tbsp fresh parsley, roughly chopped
1 tbsp fresh cilantro, roughly chopped
Preheat oven to 400 F/204 C.
The first step is to prepare the couscous stuffing. This is the base for a lot of couscous salads that I make: couscous, almonds, dried fruit, fresh parsley, fresh cilantro. It's simple but well rounded and you can add whatever else you like to it.
Pour 1 cup of dry couscous into a heatproof bowl. Add a tsp of olive oil and season with a little salt. Pour over 1 1/4 cups of boiling water from a kettle. Stir once and cover the bowl with a lid, plate or anything that trap the steam. As it steams it will absorb the liquid. After six or seven minutes remove the lid and fluff with a fork. Now you have prepared couscous. Stir in 1/3 cup of dried cranberries, 1/3 cup of toasted and slivered almonds and roughly chopped parsley and cilantro (about 1 tbsp each). Stuffing is done.
To make the Moroccan spice rub, all you need to do is combine the turmeric, cumin, ginger, cinnamon, paprika and cayenne.
I recommend filling a makeshift parcel of cheesecloth and filling it with the couscous mixture before stuffing it into the chicken. It just makes removing and cleaning a lot easier. I was out of cheesecloth so I had to make due without. It's probably easier to rub the chicken with the spices before stuffing it. Not really thinking, I stuffed the chicken before adding the spice rub. As long as you keep the stuffing in the chicken the order is your preference. Your chicken will also need to be rubbed with salt and pepper, so season to your liking. Please bear in mind that salt is essential to roasted chicken because it helps to create a crispy skin and juicy interior. Make sure you season inside the cavity of the chicken with salt and pepper before you add the stuffing.
Once the inside of your chicken is seasoned, stuffed with the couscous mixture and rubbed with the Moroccan spice blend it's time to truss the chicken. To truss means to simply tie the chicken in butcher's twine or string in such a way that it lays flat (so it cooks evenly), keeps the stuffing in place as it cooks and retains a presentable shape. There are dozens of ways to truss a bird and, frankly, I use different methods all the time. Learning how to truss a chicken is best by picking up step by step instructions. I hope you will find it in yourselves to understand the challenges of trussing a chicken by yourself, while documenting each step and avoiding cross contamination with your camera and potentially harmful E. coli. It's a feat much harder than just executing this recipe. If you already know how to truss, then no worries. For those who may require a little assistance, here is a helpful link to a quick video that shows you one method that will work for this. I hope this proves to be helpful.
Place the chicken, breast side up, on a wire rack over a pan to catch any drippings.
Place in the center of your preheated oven and allow to roast for 30 minutes. Then turn the chicken backside up and roast for an additional thirty 30 minutes.
Turn the chicken once more so that it's back to breast side up and let it cook for another 45 minutes or so. The goal is to get a nice, crispy skin and all the chicken juices to be clear. Your best bet would be to use a thermometer and insert it in the thickest part of the thigh area. Chicken is safe to eat once it reaches 165 F/74 C. Note that a stuffed chicken will take longer to cook than a chicken without stuffing.
Remove the chicken from the oven and let it rest for at least 10 minutes before carving to preserve some of the flavourful juices.
Scoop the stuffing out of the chicken and plate with whichever cut of the chicken you like. I love roasted chicken. It's one of my favourite things to make and I love playing around with different flavour combinations. I'm sure I will be making more roasted chickens in the upcoming colder months. Don't forget to save the carcass of the chicken to make stock with later. Both the carcass and the stock freeze well and can be kept for months.
Now let's get into the brussels sprouts slaw. This is such an exciting and delicious side dish to me. It's quick and easy to prepare, raw, fresh, and healthy. You need to get your brussels sprouts sliced very thinly for them to work in a slaw. Your best option is to use the slicing blade in your food processor. Add the brussels sprouts through the feed tube and use the pusher when necessary. You will have thinly sliced spouts in seconds.
Don't have a food processor? Don't worry, neither do I at the moment (lol). I used a mandolin, which I don't recommend unless you have experience and are very confident with your slicing skills. Normally you would use a mandolin to slice larger ingredients that can be held comfortably where your hand is far from the blade and even then, most of the time you'd use a hand guard anyway. Since brussels sprouts are generally small and many hand guards can't adequately grip them, your hand is near the blade at all times (shaving closer and closer). Normally a very bad idea. Personally I used the mandolin to slice it down as far as I was comfortable with and the sliced the remaining parts with a chef knife. Then again, if you have the time and need the practice, you could slice all of it by hand with a knife.
1 pound (0.5 kg) brussels sprouts
1/3 cup slivered almonds, toasted
1/3 cup dried cranberries, roughly chopped
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 tbsp apple cider or rice vinegar
1 tbsp honey
1 tbsp good quality mustard
1 garlic clove, finely grated
To make the dressing simply whisk together the olive oil, vinegar, honey, mustard and garlic until well emulsified. Season to taste.
Get yourself some brussels sprouts!
Wash the brussels sprouts thoroughly in cold water. Peel away any yellowing or less than perfect outer leaves. Trim the woody stems of the sprouts off. Then slice finely using a food processor, mandolin or sharp knife.
Your final product should be crisp, shredded greenery. Pour your dressing over the sliced sprouts and toss until everything is lightly coated. Add the chopped cranberries and toasted almond slivers and toss again to combine.
You won't believe what a tasty and simple side this is. I would recommend this to those who think they don't like brussels sprouts. This could be the simplest, tastiest and mildest way to enjoy them. They were perfection with my Moroccan inspired roast chicken and couscous stuffing. You might have noticed that in the first photo in this post with the plated dish, there is a red sauce in the corner of the plate. That's Harissa sauce, a popular North African paste of chilies, garlic and caraway seeds.
As always, I hope I have inspired you to try something new. I encourage you to be as creative as you want with this or most other recipes you'll find on this blog.
Until next time!