In Morocco, couscous is steamed in a couscoussière, a two-part pot with a perforated top, but a number of makeshift couscous steamers are possible. The easiest, which I use, is a colander lined with cheesecloth. Other choices include metal or wooden vegetable steamers lined with cheesecloth or a large fine mesh sieve. The primary consideration is that the holes be small enough to prevent the couscous from falling through.
1-1/2 cups sliced almonds
Preheat the oven to 350°F (175°C). Put the almonds on a small sheet pan or pie plate and toast for 8 to 9 minutes, or until browned but not too dark. Set aside.
Put 2 Tbsp of the olive oil in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add the chicken and cook until lightly browned, 6 to 7 minutes. Work in batches to avoid crowding the pan, which will make it harder to brown the chicken. Remove the chicken to a platter. Add the onions and squash and cook for 5 to 6 minutes, or until the onions soften. Return the chicken to the pot and add the turmeric, saffron, and cinnamon. Cook for 2 minutes, stirring well.
Add the chick peas and stock and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook for about 30 minutes, uncovered, or until the chicken is tender and the squash is cooked. Season with salt and pepper.
Put the couscous in a steamer lined with cheesecloth and place over the simmering stew. Cover and cook for 16 minutes, or until the couscous is cooked and looks swollen. Transfer the couscous to a decorative shallow bowl and season with 1/2 cup of the stew liquid, the remaining olive oil, and salt and pepper to taste.
Add the almonds and cilantro to the stew. Check the seasoning again, place the chicken pieces and vegetables in the middle of the couscous, and pour the broth around the edges. Serve immediately.
Yield: serves 4
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