Moghrabieh with Levantine Roast Chicken

Since March, I’ve been trying to figure out a good way to cook the moghrabieh that jumped into my cart at Barbur World Foods. Moghrabieh is the Lebanese version of couscous: it consists of dried pea-sized balls of semolina, slightly larger than Israeli or pearl couscous. I’d never worked with either before, and initially thought I was buying Israeli couscous, so I was fascinated to learn about this Lebanese pseudo-pasta. I decided to serve it under roasted chicken that I doctored up with some Levantine flavors: za’atar, lemon, cinnamon, allspice, garlic and onion. The chicken was tasty, but next time I’ll adjust the spice blend and try rubbing it under the chicken’s skin in advance, salting the outside, and letting it marinate uncovered in the refrigerator overnight, a bit like this recipe.

As for the moghrabieh, there isn’t a whole lot of information, at least online, about the options for cooking it. It usually gets pre-soaked or steamed to prepare it for inclusion in soup or stew as little dumplings. I intended it to stand on its own as a side dish, so I went with a modified risotto method. The finished moghrabieh was fantastic and very savory, reminding me a bit of gravy-drenched spaetzle, but with a firmer bite and more uniformity of shape. It complemented the chicken beautifully, and the only thing I was missing from this meal was glazed carrots with some honey and cinnamon or ginger.

Caramelized Onion Moghrabieh

2 T olive oil
1 small sweet onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 C moghrabieh couscous
3-4 C chicken stock
Juice of 1 lemon, or a few tablespoons of pan jus from the roasted chicken
Salt, pepper and crushed red pepper to taste

Heat olive oil in saucepan; add the onions and saute over medium low heat, until lightly caramelized and very tender, at least 15 minutes. Add garlic and moghrabieh, and saute until slightly golden, as you would with risotto rice, stirring well to coat the balls with oil.

Add 1/2 of the stock and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer about 10 minutes, stirring periodically. When most of the broth has been absorbed, taste one of the balls to see whether it has been cooked to your liking. If not, add about 1/2 C of broth at a time, continuing to stir and taste as the broth absorbs until you have reached your desired doneness. This may take as long as 30 minutes. I used about 3 cups of broth, and cooked my moghrabieh until it was tender all the way through, but still had some chew (not utterly mushy). Next, add your lemon juice, red pepper flakes if desired, or a splash of pan jus from your meat. (This time, I was considering making gravy as usual for my roasted chicken; I defatted and deglazed the roasting pan with chicken stock and lemon, and it was way too tangy for me, so I adjusted with pinches of sugar and salt, and then it was too salty. I abandoned it as a separate accompaniment for the chicken, and used it very successfully in a small amount as seasoning for the moghrabieh.) Give the flavorings a minute or two to absorb into the balls, then taste and adjust one more time, if necessary. The finished moghrabieh should still be moist, almost surrounded with a haze of gravy caused by some of the semolina starch melding with the broth.

Source: Adapted from He Cooks She Cooks.

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