Friday, February 17, 2012

Book Seventy-Six: Simple to Spectacular

by Jean-Georges Vongerichten  
     & Mark Bittman

                      Sautéed Chicken Chunks with Harissa and Couscous

Recipes in this book go from basic to sophisticated. There are four variations within each food group (poultry, fish, meat, etc.) and I like that this book also has side notes called Keys to Success: what type of pan to use, substitutions, and helpful suggestions.

I was excited that this recipe called for two of my favorite spices; cardamom and cumin. Unfortunately the flavor of these spices did not come through strong enough for my taste, so you may want to increase them by as much as half. After a trip to three grocery stores and unable to find harissa, and looking on-line for a substitution (make your own), I ended up using Hunan Chili Sauce which I had on-hand, using less than the recipe called for, being this is a very spicy condiment.

This recipe, aside from the flavor issue I mentioned above, is a quick and easy dish that is beautiful enough to serve to company.

Success meter (1-3): 2

Sautéed Chicken Chunks with
Harissa and Couscous
Serves 4

1 lb. boneless, skinless chicken breasts,
   cut into ½ - 1-inch dice
1 tsp. cumin
½ tsp. cardamom
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 cups chicken stock
1 cup couscous
¼ cup raisins
2 Tbl. harissa, or more to taste
1/3 cup plus 2 Tbl. extra-virgin olive oil
8 oz. zucchini, washed, trimmed, and
   cut into ¼ - inch thick slices
1 cup cooked (or canned) chickpeas (rinsed if canned)
1 large tomato, peeled, seeded, and diced (about 1
   cup; use drained canned tomatoes if you wish)

1.       Toss the chicken with the cumin, cardamom, and salt and pepper to taste and let sit while you prepare the couscous.
2.       Bring 1 ½ cups of the stock to a boil. Combine the couscous, raisins, 1 tablespoon of the harissa, the 1/3 cup olive oil, and salt and pepper to taste in a bowl. Pour the boiling stock over the couscous, stir, and seal the top of the bowl with plastic wrap. Set aside for at least 15 minutes.
3.       Meanwhile, put the remaining 2 tablespoons oil in a large skillet and turn the heat to high. A minute later, add the chicken and cook until it begins to brown, about 2 minutes. Add the zucchini and toss, still over high heat, until it begins to brown, 2 to 3 minutes. Stir in the chickpeas and the remaining 1 tablespoon harissa and ½ cup stock, along with the tomato. Bring to a boil, turn the heat to low, and simmer for 2 minutes; the mixture should be brothy. Taste and add more salt, pepper, and/or harissa to taste.
4.       Serve on top of the couscous, garnished with the mint.

Simple to Spectacular/Jean-Georges Vongerichten & Mark Bittman

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