How many of you have lost the motivation to cook simply because you’re scared of the cleanup aftershocks? This happens to me pretty regularly- I love to cook, but cleaning at the end of a busy day? Not so much. That’s said as the mother of two particularly destructive Tasmanian Devils! It’s easy to pull up Doordash and press the order button on nights when I can’t deal with another mess, but I always end up spending too much money and/or feeling underwhelmed by my takeout meal. Last night my pizza was FORTY FLIPPIN’ DOLLARS and it tasted a little like cardboard. The solution to this problem almost always lies in the one pot dinner! This delicious One Pot Spiced Couscous with Chicken both delights and keeps dish duty at a minimum. Winner winner chicken dinner indeed! The white sauce will get one more small bowl dirty, but it’s optional if you really can’t deal with an extra dish (it’s so worth that tiny extra bowl though).
Using one pot has an added benefit in addition to easier cleanup: I find that flavors are enhanced when you stick to one vessel. In this recipe, chicken drippings become a flavor base for the pearl couscous (or orzo if you prefer) and the aromatic spices and tomatoey broth do double duty to infuse the chicken as everything simmers together. All the ingredients work in tandem to bring out the best in each other, creating just one more reason to love a one pot wonder.
This Moroccan inspired main is perfumed with harissa paste, turmeric, cumin and a pinch of cinnamon. It’s not very spicy by my standards, but choose mild harissa if you’re sensitive to heat. To cool it down and add some creaminess, I’ve included a simple white sauce. This tahini based condiment comes together easily in a small bowl or glass measuring cup: spoon in the ice water little by little and continue to whisk until it’s smooth and creamy and noticeably lighter in color. If you plan to make this ahead, pull it out of the fridge to come to room temp before using as it will thicken up when stored. Skip the cleanup panic and make this one soon!
prep time: ~15 min. cook time: 45 min serves: 6
3 lbs bone in skin on chicken thighs, about 6-8 large
ground black pepper
extra virgin olive oil
1 large shallot or small red onion, diced
1 tbsp harissa paste
1 tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp cumin
1/8 tsp cinnamon
2 large garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1 -1/2 cups halved cherry tomatoes
1-1/2 cups pearl (Israeli) couscous
2-1/4 cups chicken stock
2 tbsp chopped fresh dill (or parsley), plus extra for garnish
1/2 cup stirred tahini paste
juice of 1 lemon (2 tbsp)
1/2 tsp cumin
1 plump garlic clove, grated or finely minced
1 tsp kosher salt
For the white sauce, place the tahini, garlic, lemon juice, salt and cumin in a bowl. Use a whisk to combine (it will be sticky and clumpy at first). While stirring, add the ice water tablespoon by tablespoon, whisking constantly until lighter in color and smooth. I used about 9 tbsp ice water to get to a drizzly consistency, and it will take a little time to get there so be patient. The final product should be silky smooth and noticeably lighter in color. Check for seasoning and set aside.
Pat the chicken thighs dry and season then all over with salt and pepper, tops and bottoms. Heat 1 tbsp olive oil over medium heat in a large heavy skillet with a lid. When the oil is shimmering, add the chicken thighs skin side down to cook undisturbed 7 minutes, until the skin is golden brown. Work in batches if needed. Flip and cook the thighs another 5 minutes
on the underside. Set them aside on a plate.
Pour off and discard all but 1 tbsp of the rendered fat in the pan and add 1 more tbsp olive oil plus the shallot to the same pot. Cook to soften, 3-5 minutes. Add the garlic, spices and harissa paste and cook 1 minute more. Add the couscous and toast 2 minutes, stirring frequently. Stir in the tomatoes, 2-1/4 cups chicken stock, 1 tsp salt and a few cranks black pepper. Bring the mixture to a boil then reduce to a low simmer. Return the chicken pieces to the pot skin side up, cover with a lid and cook 12-15 min until the chicken is cooked through (165° on a thermometer).
Remove the cooked chicken to a plate, and continue to cook the couscous uncovered over low to absorb any extra liquid. Check for seasoning. Stir in the dill or parsley and return the chicken to the pot, nestling the thighs skin side up on top of the couscous. Sprinkle with more herbs. Serve warm with the white tahini sauce drizzled over the top. Enjoy!