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Couscous, step by step (with pictures)

post #1 of 13
Thread Starter 

The other day I made couscous, and decided to kinda document the process... here it goes: 

 

First, and in honor of gungaSim, the music!

 

 

 

 

Now the STAR of the dish, which sports the same name as the dish itself, "couscous". If you don't get this right, nothing else is going to matter. Even though couscous is not a grain per se, we typically call it "the grain" to avoid confusion. Soak the grain in cold water and immediately drain it, then let it rest in a dish so it absorbs the water and creates a "cake":

 

 

 

Meanwhile let's look at what we've got to work with... some lamb neck bones for the broth and a couple of slices of lamb shoulder, bones for the broth, meat for skewers!

 

 

 

And a very nice local free range chicken from the farmer's market, begging to be cut up in pieces, just begging...

 

 

 

... and after a few minutes, meat is cut up and S & P have been generously applied on all sides:

 

 

 

Let's start slowly browning the lamb neck and shoulder bones, chicken back bones, neck and wing tips in GOOD BUTTER (don't get the cheap stuff) and with some turmeric. All the meat needs to be browned that way, then reserved in a plate.

 

 

 

Now let's have a look at our veggies: those carrots from the farmer's market actually taste... like carrots! Can you believe that? Supermarket carrots must be sooo jealous right now. We'll use the cilantro sprigs for the broth, the leaves can be reserved for something else. 

 

 

 

The cilantro gets a haircut: 

 

 

 

The veggies get a cut job (keep big pieces) and the zucchini get the full spa treatment. Leave the skin on the squash, it's the best part! 

 

 

 

Let's prepare the spices: it's not the time to be stingy with the saffron. A nice cinnamon stick, bit of cumin if you'd like, some ginger, bit of sweet paprika, some ras al hanout and a spice mix I have... 

 

 

 

Chickpeas! Can't make couscous without chickpeas. Those are dried and will be pressure cooked for 40mn: 

 

 

 

Back to the pot: all meat was browned, removed and reserved. Time to deglaze all that wonderful stuff at the bottom of your pot!! We'll use the onions and bell peppers for that. Add a coulpe of whole garlic cloves while you're at it. 

 

 

 

Aaaah.. much better! Get ready for everybody in the house to start noticing the incredible aromas. 

 

 

 

Now add all your meat:

 

 

 

Then cold water (cold, because our main concern is with making the broth taste incredible), the cilantro, and let simmer for a while to make the broth: 

 

 

 

While your broth is infusing, let's go back to our grain. Add S & P to the grain then pour a bit of olive oil in your hands and start delicately breaking up the clumps... this is the labor of love. You want every single grain to be separated to "aerate" the grain: 

 

 

 

Much easier to do with two hands - but here one was busy taking the picture. ;) Here most clumps are gone and I'm about ready to steam the grain on top of the broth. 

 

 

 

Pour the grain in the top part of the couscoussier and steam while the broth is simmering. 

 

 

 

 

 

The grain will need to steam for a while. Then you pour it back into the dish and pour a glass of cold water on top and let it absorb the water. Then S & P again, olive oil on your hand and breaking up clumps again, steam again, and repeat the whole thing one more time. 

 

You will be adding veggies to the broth depending on the time they take to cook....:

 

 

 

Ok by now the grain is ready to serve: 

 

 

 

The broth, meats and veggies are done!

 

 

 

The lamb shoulder meat was defatted, cubed and marinated in olive oil and lemon, then skewered and grilled: 

 

 

 

And for those who like a bit of heat.... a couple of options (sambal oelek would work really well here too): 

 

 

 

 

BON APPETIT!!

post #2 of 13

Spectacular. A spectacular show. That music idea of gunga is amazing.

Thanks so much! Gracias.

Gebe Gott uns allen, uns Trinkern, einen so leichten und so schönen Tod! Joseph Roth.
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Gebe Gott uns allen, uns Trinkern, einen so leichten und so schönen Tod! Joseph Roth.
Reply
post #3 of 13

Great post FF! Have you ever tried making your own couscous? I've watched some videos on it, doesn't seem overly difficult. Also, I have never labored over the cooking of the couscous to that degree (I have done similar with basmati rice). I've found that taking equal parts stock to a boil, then quickly stirring in the equal part dried couscous and killing the heat and covering. Then don't touch for 5 minutes. After 5 minutes I can gently fluff with a fork and get a great separation out of it. I'll have to try your method sometime to see how different it might be.

post #4 of 13

outstanding ...thumb.gif

post #5 of 13
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by ordo View Post

Spectacular. A spectacular show.

Thank you very much ordo! Coming from you, that means a lot! smile.gif

 

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by eastshores View Post

Great post FF! Have you ever tried making your own couscous? I've watched some videos on it, doesn't seem overly difficult. 

Never made my own couscous!! I've heard it's a very lengthy process though... not necessarily difficult but quite long. Any chance you could post some links to those videos? 

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by eastshores View Post

I've found that taking equal parts stock to a boil, then quickly stirring in the equal part dried couscous and killing the heat and covering. Then don't touch for 5 minutes. After 5 minutes I can gently fluff with a fork and get a great separation out of it. I'll have to try your method sometime to see how different it might be.

The method you're talking about is the quick one, and it's perfectly ok when in a pinch. I'll use that method sometimes when I want a quick starch to serve along with something else.... but I'll never use it to serve with couscous, the dish. The difference between the two method is tricky to describe on a forum. It's both... subtil and huge at the same time. I guess that means that to the uninitiated, there might be almost no difference, but to the initiated the difference is HUGE. Maybe, just maybe, it's the same as the difference between a $5 wine and a $5,000 wine. If you only drink $5 wines and one day someone brings a $5,000 bottle but doesn't say anything, you might not notice the difference. If they point out the differences then you'll probably notice them and realize you never noticed those things before. If you're used to ordering $5,000 wines then the $5 wine will probably taste crude. I said "maybe" because I've never ordered a $5,000 bottle of wine so I wouldn't know. 

 

To me, the soaking method yields a couscous that's a bit heavy, a bit watery, and the small pellets are a bit clingy, a bit sticky. Even if you fluff with your hands rather than a fork. Even if you add butter or olive oil. 

 

And to me, the steaming method yields a couscous that's airy, ethereal, heavenly, where the small pellets are perfectly separated, making the whole thing very light and ready to absorb all your wonderful broth. You can eat a LOT of it and never feel like you ate too much. And that, to me, is the magic of couscous (the dish): a dish that is plentiful, that features light starch but also all sorts of veggies and all sorts of meats, one of the most satisfying dishes I know, and yet once you're done you don't feel like you ate too much or that you're bloated. 

 

On the other hand, while the soaking method is easy and yields predictable results, the steaming method requires some experience, and the results depend on many things from the quantity of liquid you use, the time you take to separate the grains with your hands, the way you steam it, the length of the steaming etc. Let's just say that the first few times you use the steaming method the results may actually be worse than what you're used to with the soaking method, so you have to keep at it and perfect it every time you do it. A labor of love. I wouldn't have it any other way. 


Edited by French Fries - 3/20/13 at 8:38pm
post #6 of 13

Ok, that is pretty convincing! I actually hold a similar view when it comes to pesto. While some people throw everything into a food processor and blend with oil, and maybe they have never experienced what pesto really can be, I spend 30+ minutes slowly masticating basil, garlic, and pine nuts in a mortar and pestle. There is no comparison and it is certainly a labor of love. I will give your approach a shot. I know what you mean about it becoming somewhat wet, I also think that can be due to too much liquid, I started cutting back the stock just a bit and got better results. Looking forward to trying the steaming out soon.

post #7 of 13
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by eastshores View Post

I actually hold a similar view when it comes to pesto. While some people throw everything into a food processor and blend with oil, and maybe they have never experienced what pesto really can be

That's what I do!! lol.gif And you're right, I've never had pesto like the one you describe, so to me, the food processor way is the better alternative to buying pre-made pesto!! 

post #8 of 13

French, I just had to pop up to say what an outstanding job you did with this fantastic looking authentic couscous royal. Outstanding!

post #9 of 13

Wow, inspirational.  I've never spent so much time on humble couscous.

"You are what you eat, so don't be fast, cheap, easy, or fake."

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"You are what you eat, so don't be fast, cheap, easy, or fake."

Reply
post #10 of 13

Listening to the music and reading your step by step tutorial elevates the experience to a whole new level.

 

 

FrenchFries , you did a fantastic job !

The family must of loved it .

 

 

ps. chanson ? elle était lente et hypnotique/superbe

Petals.

Petals
Réalisé avec un soupçon d'amour.

Served Up
(165 photos)
Wine and Cheese
(62 photos)
 
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Petals
Réalisé avec un soupçon d'amour.

Served Up
(165 photos)
Wine and Cheese
(62 photos)
 
Reply
post #11 of 13
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by ChrisBelgium View Post

French, I just had to pop up to say what an outstanding job you did with this fantastic looking authentic couscous royal. Outstanding!

Thanks - and WOW Chris, long time no see/talk.... good to see you back here! Still remember some of your outstanding work too! Hopefully we'll see more of that. 

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Koukouvagia View Post

Wow, inspirational.  I've never spent so much time on humble couscous.

Thank you Kouk'. If you saw how much time my grand-mother used to take... or even my aunt still takes today... that would be considered a "quick" version. I left the house to go shopping at 4pm and the couscous was ready by 7pm. Although to be honest I would typically take a little longer... but that day I just didn't have any more time. 

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by petalsandcoco View Post

Listening to the music and reading your step by step tutorial elevates the experience to a whole new level.

 

FrenchFries , you did a fantastic job !

The family must of loved it .

 

ps. chanson ? elle était lente et hypnotique/superbe

Petals.

Merci Petals! Really nice to hear from you! Both my son and my wife absolutely love it when I make couscous. Now I promised one to a friend so I'll have to make it again soon, but first I want to go buy merguez... which I'll have to drive a little to find the right ones...

 

The song is by Natasha Atlas, it's called Kidda, but search her name on YouTube, she has a lot of beautiful trance-ish songs like that. She even wrote a French song "Mon amie la rose"... 

 

PS: Did you ever get to make that cassoulet? I am slowly gathering ingredients for mine: I brought back the beans from France, and recently found some Toulouse Sausage and some Saucisson-a-l'ail... I have some duck confit on hand... all I'm waiting for really is a long cold day... which we don't seem to have right now!!

post #12 of 13
Quote:
Originally Posted by eastshores View Post

Ok, that is pretty convincing! I actually hold a similar view when it comes to pesto. While some people throw everything into a food processor and blend with oil, and maybe they have never experienced what pesto really can be, I spend 30+ minutes slowly masticating basil, garlic, and pine nuts in a mortar and pestle. There is no comparison and it is certainly a labor of love. I will give your approach a shot. I know what you mean about it becoming somewhat wet, I also think that can be due to too much liquid, I started cutting back the stock just a bit and got better results. Looking forward to trying the steaming out soon.

Same with aioli

You can't lay on the beach and drink rum all day unless you start in the morning

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You can't lay on the beach and drink rum all day unless you start in the morning

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post #13 of 13
Thread Starter 

Yeah aïoli on the other hand I always do with mortar and pestle... 

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