African Spiced Chicken with Green Olive Sauce and Couscous

IMG_1162(MARINA) This dish has not one, not two, but three layers of flavor. It has the chicken, the couscous, and the sauce. The component that makes this African spiced chicken glamorously delicious is the couscous. The amount of yumminess in it is amazing. What makes it amazing is the tiny bite of starch that your tooth craves. The sauce has that flavor: the one where you can’t stop saying “this sauce is soooooo good.” Can we just say how great this recipe is? If you cook the chicken right, it is juicy, tender, and flavorful. The most exciting part of this dish is the flavor blast. This is a good dish for company, maybe even Thanksgiving!

(KERI) Don’t say a word to my husband, but Tyler Florence satiates a frequent need I have. He’s like my booty call for a new method, a ‘I-don’t-think-I-can-do-this-but-dammit-I’m-going-to-try’ process, or a flavor marriage you’d NO WAY think of yourself. If you’ve ever made one of his creations or enjoyed them at his outstanding Wayfare Tavern in San Fran, you know what I’m talkin’ about. I’ll bet he…rrr…his recipes have been the target of many-o-amorous attentions.

So when my brother recently bought me one of the only Tyler books I didn’t own – Eat This Book: Cooking with Global Fresh Flavors, I poured over it and its delightful, complex recipes. I couldn’t wait to put my apron on and Get. Down. To. It.

First up: African-Spiced Chicken with Green Olive Sauce and Couscous. If you know me, you know I love a good process (as an aside, M shares this quality and I love it so much – I squeal when I see her tinker-belling her way around the best way to tackle a recipe, her schoolwork, etc. Oh, let’s face it: We love it when we spot ourselves in our children!).  Start to finish, the more complex the better, so long as I know the end-result will be something really rewarding. I know TF. I knew this would be worth all of the fussy hoopla. I knew he’d make it worth our while.

First of all, Tyler asks us, no…insists…we mill our own spices for this recipe. I don’t do this often and I should. We should. The process of warming whole spices in a pan, then milling them while hot brings such pleasure to the senses – the smell, oh the smell. You know instantly what the dish will taste like. Even though this is only step one.

IMG_1129M loves couscous jammed with flavor. This one delivers, with toasted almonds, dried apricots, cilantro, and mint. And, the method of chopping all of the couscous ingredients together on the board blends the flavors in such a way that chopping each separately does not. I’ve tested and tried, it’s true. Chopping whole almonds vs. throwing in sliced also adds a dimension of texture that makes the difference between good and fabulous. IMG_1144Me, I’ve gone off the deep end about the green olive sauce. It is so good (we need to find new words, I know), I can imagine dressing a sunny-side-up egg with it. I put it on salami sandwiches. It’s deep and delicious. The process of caramelizing the shallots and red chili is another one of those Tyler methods that brings perfection to the dish.

IMG_1139Then comes lemon juice, the olives, some parsley and a glug of sherry vinegar. Gee whiz.

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It’s so beautiful. That’s another thing about Tyler’s cooking. He knows how to make food look like a million bucks.

And finally, how can you go wrong with roasting a chicken that’s been rubbed inside and out with a freshly-milled spice mixture and stuffed with garlic, cilantro and lemon? The best part of the chicken process: Squeezing those roasted lemons onto the shredded chicken when it all comes out of the oven. Again with the simple little touches, Florence! You’re killing us.

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So here it is: African Spiced Chicken with Green Olive Sauce and Couscous. Spend the time, take the time to do it right. Turn up the music in the kitchen and enjoy the process. Every step. You’ll be satisfied (so will your Daddy Bite and your Baby Bites), and you’ll have Tyler to thank.

African Spiced Chicken with Green Olive Sauce and Couscous by Tyler Florence
(Here called Moroccan Chicken with Apricot Couscous and Green Olive Sauce in Flatbread. Maybe he changed the name in the book to protect the innocent?)
NOTE: I recommend a 425-degree oven for 1 hour and 20 minutes.
It cooks the chicken more evenly.

Spice Mixture:
1 cinnamon stick, chopped in pieces
8 whole cloves
1 teaspoon cayenne
2 teaspoons cumin seed
1 teaspoon fennel seed
1 teaspoon coriander seed
1 tablespoon sweet paprika
11/2 teaspoons kosher salt

Chicken:
1 (31/2 pound) whole free range chicken
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 lemon, halved
1/4 bunch fresh cilantro
1 head garlic
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

Couscous:
1 cup couscous
11/2 cups warm water
10 dried apricots
1/4 cup whole almonds, toasted
2 green onions, green parts only
2 handfuls fresh mint leaves
2 handfuls fresh cilantro leaves
1/2 lemon, juiced
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Green Olive Sauce:
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus 2 tablespoons
2 shallots, sliced
1 fresh red chile, halved lengthwise
1/2 pound large green Spanish olives, pitted
1/4 bunch fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves
2 tablespoons sherry vinegar
1/2 lemon, juiced
4 pieces lavosh or Naan bread, cut in 1/2

To prepare the Spice Mix: Combine the cinnamon stick, cloves, cayenne, cumin, fennel, coriander, and paprika in a dry skillet over low heat and toast for just a minute to release the fragrant oils; shake the pan so they don’t scorch. In a spice mill or clean coffee grinder, grind the toasted spices together, with 1 1/2 teaspoons of kosher salt and the pepper.

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.

Rinse the chicken with cool water, inside and out, then pat it dry with paper towels. Massage the chicken skin and the inside cavity with the spice rub; make sure you don’t miss a spot. Season the inside of the chicken generously with salt and pepper. Stuff the lemons halves, cilantro, and garlic in the cavity and place the chicken in a roasting pan fitted with a rack. Fold the wing tips under the bird and tie the legs together with kitchen string. Drizzle the oil all over the chicken. Let the chicken marinate for 30 minutes to really get the flavors down deep into the meat. Roast the chicken for 1 hour and 20 minutes; to 160-degrees on a thermometer. Allow the chicken to rest for 10 minutes so the juices can settle back into the meat. Remove and discard the skin from the chicken. Pull the chicken from the bone and shred the meat, with your fingers or 2 forks. Put the shredded chicken in a large bowl and squeeze the lemon halves that have cooked inside the bird over the meat to moisten.

To prepare the Couscous: Put the couscous in a medium bowl; pour the water over it, stir with a fork to combine. Cover and let sit for 10 to 15 minutes, then uncover and fluff with a fork. Put the apricots, almonds, green onions, mint, and cilantro on a cutting board and coarsely chop everything up; add this to the couscous. Add lemon juice, drizzle with olive oil, and season with salt and pepper. Toss gently to combine.

To prepare the Green Olive Sauce: In a small skillet, heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Saute the shallots and chile over low heat for 8 minutes until caramelized, then scrape into a food processor. Add the olives, parsley, vinegar, lemon juice, and 1/2 cup of oil; puree a good 3 minutes until totally smooth.

To put the whole thing together: put the shredded chicken and couscous on the lavosh or Naan bread, add a few spoonfuls of the olive sauce over the top (roll into a sandwich if desired).

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