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chicken couscous {ffwd}

Chicken Couscous

This has been one of the snowiest winters in my recent memory. Not only does it feel like it’s snowing endlessly, every snowstorm seems to dump another foot of snow on us. The banks on either side of our driveway and our front yard are four to six feet high. There’s really nowhere left for more snow.

During last weekend’s snow storm, I made this week’s recipe for French Fridays with Dorie: Chicken Couscous. This warm and hearty stew was the perfect fare for a snowy blowy day. First, chicken thighs are sautéed with a fragrant spice mix made from turmeric, saffron, cinnamon, ginger, and cumin. The turmeric and saffron turns everything a lovely yellow hue. Then a slew of vegetables and broth are added to the pot to simmer until everything is tender. Chick peas are the finishing touch. The stew is served over couscous, which is cooked in the lovely-colored broth from the chicken pot.

Pile of Vegetables

The recipe is meant to serve four, but we typically eat small portions of meat. That means eight pieces of chicken translate to eight servings at my house. To ensure that every bowl made a meal, I doubled the vegetables and the chick peas. The balance was perfect for us. Also, I omitted the zucchini because someone doesn’t like that particular vegetable. I had the best intentions of making some quick harissa and adding some raisins to my bowl, but we enjoyed the chicken, veggies, and broth ladled over couscous with no further adornments.

Next time I make this, I will skin, bone, and chop the chicken into chunks. Because the chicken was braised, the skin was not crispy and so wouldn’t be missed in my book. Also, I really disliked having to cut the chicken off the bone as I ate. It would have been more appealing be able to eat this with just a fork (or a spoon) and not have to deal with the knife. Maybe that’s because I served the chicken couscous in wide shallow bowls, and I feel like knifes and bowls aren’t naturally compatible.

To see what the other Doristas thought of chicken couscous, check out their links here. We don’t post the recipes, but you can find it in Dorie Greenspan’s book Around My French Table.

Last weekend, before the snowstorm, we saw The Second Girl at the Huntington Theatre and finally checked out Bar Boulud, which opened at the Mandarin Oriental hotel here in Boston last fall. This was our third attempt to go. We had to cancel our reservations the last two times we planned to go. Third time’s the charm, and it was well worth the wait. I adore bistro food. We started with a charcuterie platter with the chef’s choice of pâtés, sliced meats, and pickles. I think I’m glad I didn’t know exactly what was on it, because I tasted head cheese for the first time. It was delicious, though I doubt I would have willingly tried it if it had been clearly identified. It was our favorite item on the platter, so we asked what it was when we finished it off. Then we shared a salade Lyonnaise with sautéed chicken livers along with the traditional lardons and egg on top. We finished with cassoulet. Oh, and dessert. Howard had chocolate ice cream, of course, and I had a tarte Basque, garnished with brandied cherries. Oh la la!

As I write this, we’re waiting for yet another storm tomorrow. We were supposed to go to Maine, but now I’m looking forward to a weekend homebound with my sweetheart. I’ve laid in supplies for cooking a romantic Valentine’s Day dinner followed by other hearty fare for the rest of the weekend.

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Wishing you a Happy Valentine’s Day!

Found by Nemo

Lots of Snow

The Blizzard of 2013 has come and mostly gone from the Boston area. The eastern part of the state is still under a travel ban until 4 pm. I applaud the governor for proactively keeping people off the roads. I’m sure it went a long way towards the seemingly seamless cleanup effort that has taken place so far. There are power outages in some area, mostly southeast of the city (we are northwest of the city). For a variety of reasons, the public transit system remains down, but hopes to be up and running for the Monday commute. Officials are urging all to be patient, a virtue that Americans often seem short on. I’m happily settled in for the rest of the day with a cup of tea and a book (Jill Lepore’s The Story of America: Essays on Origins).

Backyard at start of storm, noon on February 8, 2013

Backyard at start of storm, noon on February 8, 2013

I estimate we got about 27 inches of snow. It’s a little hard to judge because of the heavy drifting. Thank goodness the snow blower was successfully fixed! Howard did a few passes with the heavy equipment, and I supplemented with the shovel. We were cleared out and ready for action by around noon.

Backyard after the storm, 24 hours later, noon on February 9, 2013

Backyard after the storm, 24 hours later, noon on February 9, 2013

What’s the perfect lunch for a snowy day? I always vote for tomato soup and grilled cheese sandwiches. I made a pot of soup yesterday in anticipation of the storm, and it definitely hit the spot today. This recipe was quick and easy and uses canned tomatoes, a staple in my pantry. I used garden basil that I froze in ice cube trays at the end of the summer which gave the soup a hint of a warmer season.

Soup and Sandwich

Spicy Tomato Soup
Adapted from Food52
Serves 6

2 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 small yellow onion, peeled, halved, and sliced into ¼-inch-thick slices
¼ tsp red pepper flakes (or to taste)
2 (28-oz) cans whole tomatoes, NOT drained
1½ cup water
2 Tbsp chopped fresh basil leaves
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper

Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat until shimmering. Add the onions and red pepper flakes and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions are translucent and very tender, about 10 minutes.

Stir in the tomatoes and their juices, plus the water, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the flavors have melded, about 30 minutes. Add the basil, season with salt and pepper, remove from the heat, and let cool briefly, about 5 minutes.

Set a medium-mesh strainer over a large, heatproof bowl. Using a blender, purée the soup in batches until smooth. Pour the blended soup through the strainer. Stir and press on the solids with a rubber spatula to force what you can through the strainer. Scrape into the bowl any tomato that goes through the strainer but sticks to the outside. Discard any solids that don’t go through strainer. It won’t be that much. Taste the soup and season with additional salt and pepper as needed.

Return the soup to the saucepan and reheat until hot.