This was the most colorful meal I have ever cooked, hands down. Funny, since the photo accompanying the original recipe in Saveur is so beige—just how most of my food ends up looking. For this Moroccan kdra, a stewed chicken with onions and almonds, I substituted peas and leftover roasted butternut squash for the garbanzo beans since there wasn’t time to cook up some dried ones. As it turns out, my adjustments melded perfectly with the lightly spiced sauce. The squash in particular complemented the ras el hanout, and I surprised myself by eating every bit on my plate—it was tender and mild, not mushy, stringy, or overly sweet. I think I can understand now why butternuts are such popular squashes.
You may be wondering what all the purple stuff underneath the chicken is. I took advantage of the Moroccan-inspired flavors to try my hand at cauliflower couscous, a dish I hear about all the time on television cooking shows but had never eaten. It just so happened that I had a purple cauliflower in the crisper, so I got to make purple “couscous”. This method is actually an ideal one for maintaining the color in this variety of cauliflower, since it sautés in butter for just a few minutes. You aren’t likely to confuse it with actual couscous, but since cauliflower is one of my favorite vegetables, I found it a really interesting and different way to cook it, if somewhat messy. And since we are out of actual couscous at the moment, it was a perfect alternative.
Moroccan Chicken Stew with Squash and Cauliflower Couscous
2 whole chicken legs
1/2 C blanched whole almonds
a pinch of turmeric or saffron
1/2 tsp ground white pepper
1/2 tsp ground dried ginger
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon, or a cinnamon stick
1 tsp ras el hanout
1 bay leaf
2 T unsalted butter
1 yellow onion, diced, divided
2 C chicken broth
2 T chopped parsley, optional
Kosher salt, to taste
1⁄2 C butternut squash, cut into 1″ cubes and roasted until tender
1/2 C frozen peas
1 T fresh lemon juice
1 tsp garlic, minced
1 head cauliflower
2 T unsalted butter
Place chicken skin-side down in a saute pan over medium high heat; sear until skin is golden brown and turn. Reduce heat to medium, and add almonds, turmeric, pepper, ginger, cinnamon, and butter; cook 3–4 minutes more. Stir well and add the broth and half the onion; bring to a boil, then reduce to medium-low and cook, covered, for 30 minutes.
Set aside 1/4 C onion and add the rest to the chicken, along with the parsley; cover and cook until chicken is very tender, 25–30 minutes more. Remove chicken; set aside. Bring sauce to a boil; cook until thickened, 13–15 minutes. When it is nearly done, add the lemon juice, butternut squash, frozen peas, and chicken; heat through and taste for seasoning.
While the chicken is cooking, prepare the cauliflower couscous: Using a box grater or sharp knife, finely shave the florets from the head of cauliflower to create fine crumbles like couscous; reserve the stems for another use. In a skillet over medium heat, melt the butter and saute the reserved 1/4 C onion with the garlic until fragrant and translucent; add the cauliflower crumbles with a pinch of salt and saute until the cauliflower is just tender, 5 minutes or less depending on how small you were able to get the pieces. To serve, set a piece of chicken on a bed of “couscous” and top with a big spoonful of sauce and vegetables. Two servings.
Source: Adapted from Paula Wolfert, via Saveur.