Friday, March 23, 2007

"Kitchen Safari" - Chicken Stuffed With Almonds, Semolina, and Raisins

Date I made this recipe: March 21, 2007

Kitchen Safari – A Gourmet’s Tour of Africa by Harva Hachten
Published by: Antheneum
© 1970

Recipe: Chicken Stuffed with Almonds, Semolina and Raisins – p. 27

Well, what the heck. Last week I cooked a dish from a South American cookbook so it made sense to follow along with Mitch this week and cook something from an African Cookbook in my collection.

The dish I made is from North Africa and I was drawn to it by its use of almonds, raisins and semolina (couscous) in the stuffing. The dish was easy to make (I love recipes that indicate I should put the ingredients in a pot and forget about them for a couple of hours) and very tasty.

Of course, there were a few “boo boos,” such as neglecting to sew up or otherwise truss the bird so the stuffing would stay in, and the fact that the water never did evaporate as the instructions indicated it should, but these were all minor details.

A larger detail, however, that the author fails to note in the recipe itself, is how to steam couscous (semolina). Although she did include instructions in another section of the book, she wanted us to use a couscousier, a pan especially designed for, you guessed it, couscous.

Now I don’t know about you, but I don’t have a couscousier hanging around. I don’t have a sommelier, either, although that would be a little much considering a sommelier is a wine professional and would probably have to live in my home to be readily available to select and pour just the right wine for my dish. Basically, I don’t have anything in my kitchen ending in the French “ier.”

What I do have is a colander and it fit the bill. From the instructions I read on the internet and in other cookbooks in my collection, rinse your couscous, wrap it in cheesecloth, and place the packet in a colander that is sitting on top of a small amount of boiling water. After 25 minutes or so, your couscous should be steamed. Note that I saw recipes call for steaming 10 to 15 minutes but my couscous wasn’t anywhere close to being done.

But hey folks, once you get that couscous steamed, you'll be on your way to a wonderful North African adventure without having to leave your house. How sweet is that?

Chicken Stuffed with Almonds, Semolina and Raisins – serves 10 (but only if itty-bitty little servings!)
3 ½ ounces couscous (semolina)
7 tablespoons butter (one for the stuffing and the remaining 6 for the pot)
½ cup coarsely chopped almonds
1 cup chopped raisins (I used half golden raisins, half “regular” raisins)
½ teaspoon Ras el Hanout or curry powder
2 teaspoons salt
1 large roasting chicken or capon
Pinch ginger
1 onion, chopped
Pinch saffron, pounded with a little salt (NOTE: saffron is pretty expensive so I skipped this ingredient since it only called for a pinch)

Steam the semolina until cooked (see notes above). Toss with 1 tablespoon butter. Combine semolina with chopped almonds, raisins, Ras el Hanout (curry), and 1 teaspoon salt. Stuff this mixture into the chicken cavity, truss, and sew up opening tightly.

In a stewing pan (I used a Dutch oven) combine ginger, onion, saffron and remaining salt. Place chicken in the pan and cover halfway with water. Place on a high fire and bring to a boil. Add remaining butter. Simmer covered, over medium heat until chicken is tender, about 2 hours, uncovering the pot after the first hour.

When the chicken is tender, all the water should be evaporated, leaving only the butter and pan juices at the bottom. Increase heat a bit and brown chicken in the butter in the pan, turning carefully.

This recipe may also be used for a stuffed shoulder of lamb.

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