Saturday, March 21, 2009

Festive Cous-cous

My friend Douja, who comes from Marocco, came today to cook for us a cous-cous. This dish is typical for celebrations and holidays and not having its original name, I've decided to call it Festive cous-cous. Of course it's cous-cous, accompanied by chicken and a wonderful sauce with onion and raisins with sugar and cinnamon. The bomb.

We had great fun cooking together and quite some laughs. I was the kitchen assistant, in between pictures, chopping up onions, searching necesary pots, crushing pepper... Whatever was needed.
Douja is an extraordinary cook. If she decides sometime to open a restaurant, she's already some clients. We didn't have much time, some we cheated: we used pessure cookers. Douja tells me it's best to plan ahead and have several hours, so everything cooks slowly. So it was delicious, I'd said unbeatable, we'll see next time...
Douja's husband accompanied us. We call him affectionately Juan, because his name is unpronounceable for us.
For those of you who want to try this divine delicacy, here is the recipe.

Festive Cous-cous
Serves 8 people

  • One big chicken
  • 1 500 gr. cous-cous box
  • 1.600 gr. onions
  • 375 gr. raisins
  • 2 saffron threads papers**
  • 8 tablespoons sugar
  • 5 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 2 tablespoons powdered cinnamon
  • 4 teaspoons freshly crushed black pepper
  • paella coloring*
  • olive oil
  1. Rise chicken well and pull out any feather it may still have.
  2. Finely chopp up two onions. Put about 6 tablespoons oil in a pressure cooker and sautée it. Add 3 tablespoon kosher salt.
  3. When they are a little bit transparent, add the first saffron paper and some paella coloring.
  4. Crush 2 teaspoon black pepper, I do it in my mortar and add it.
  5. Put chicken in the pressure cooker, add oil generously, about 200 ml. water and some more coloring, close pressure cooker and let it cook for about 20 minutes. We opened it passed half the cooking time, to turn the chicken so it got golden all around.
  6. Let's make the sauce. Peel rest of the onions. Cut them in half and slice them thinly.
  7. In another pressure cooker (yes, I've two), put a generous amount oil. Sautée sliced onions. Add two teaspoons kosher salt.
  8. Crush another two teaspoons black pepper and add them.
  9. Put the other saffron paper and some coloring on the onions. Close pressure cooker and let it cook for five minutes.
  10. Open cooker, add 4 tablespoons sugar, 2 tablespoons cinnamon and the raisins. Stir over medium heat until it caramelizes. Add some water (about 50 ml). All it rests is to add last 4 tablespoons sugar. Let shimmer some more, stirring constantly, until it's golden and it smells like caramel and cinnamon.
  11. Prepare cous-cous following the instructions on the box.
  12. Take chicken out of the pressure cooker. Cut it in pieces and put in on a serving plate.
  13. Strain chicken sause. Put it in a sauce boat.
  14. Put onion - raisin sauce on another serving plate.
  15. Serve hot.
* We use a mixture of coloring and sipices for paella and some other dishes. It's not necessary, it adds some color and a little bit of taste.

**We buy saffron threads in little papers. I think each has two grams.