Some days, it’s all I can do to think of something interesting and healthy to fix for dinner. Some days, I’m completely inspired to cook. Yesterday was one of the latter. Four things conspired to produce that aha moment when the answer to the question, “What’s for dinner?” is just so completely obvious.
Thing No. 1 was the opportunity to host our dear friends Sandra Carpenter and Robert Corkery for dinner, just a few days before they’re due to return to their home in Stockholm (read Sandy’s fantastic blog about their expat lives, 59 North).
Thing No. 2 was the weather: an icy, blustery Midwestern January day.
Thing No. 3 was the recent arrival in my kitchen of Dorie Greenspan’s “Around My French Table.”
Thing No. 4 was the anticipation of our upcoming trip to Marrakech and Paris.
What’s for dinner? Of course! Greenspan’s Chicken Couscous, a French/Moroccan mashup that’s warm and hearty, perfect for a cold night. Furthermore, this spice-infused stew is packed with fresh veggies, so it’s perfectly in sync with the style of cooking I tend to adopt after the holidays: light and vegetable-centric.
Its long ingredient list notwithstanding, the dish is incredibly easy to make; it’s really just a matter of prep more than anything. (I did nearly have a kitchen disaster, though, when my Dutch oven overflowed and the burner flamed.) The spice blend is a mixture of garlic, fresh ginger, turmeric, saffron, cinnamon and cumin. The vegetables include turnips, carrots, celery, leek, zucchini, small onions (I used cippolini) and chickpeas. I used a small whole chicken, cut up, with the breasts each cut into 2 portions.
The recipe notes that the dish is commonly served with bowls of extra broth and small dishes of harissa, the North African spice paste made of chili peppers, coriander, garlic and cumin. We mixed the harissa with a bit of broth like you’d mix wasabi and soy sauce, and stirred it into our bowls for a pleasant bit of flavorful heat.
It was one of those occasions when I found myself incredibly proud and satisfied with the meal I had created. And it was a real treat to have wonderful company to share it with.