Did you have a good holiday? Enjoy the family, friends and Easter goodies? Possibly a little too much? Don't even get me started--I can't stop with those little chocolate eggs! So on that note, I thought I'd try to keep things relatively healthy around here this week. Aaah! I can hear the groans already!! But no worries, because healthy doesn't have to mean boring and I promise nothing this week will be ordinary or ho-hum. Starting today--this one dish meal with enliven, excite and thrill you with its lemony, garlic, Parmesan cheesy goodness and combination of tender chicken and asparagus atop a bed of chewy couscous. One bite and you'll forget you're trying to eat sensibly!!
Are you familiar with Israeli couscous? I have to say that until I made this wonderful Israeli couscous dish last year, I'd never really had any exposure to it--what a deprived life I've led!! It's nothing at all like regular couscous, which I have to admit is a little bit texturally grainy for me and not one of my favorites. As you can see, the grains here are much larger and cook up chewier, more like pasta. Now I'm always on the lookout for dishes that incorporate the Israeli version and when I saw this one, which also included my favorite asparagus and was basically a one-pan dish, I was hooked!
The chicken is lightly coated in a seasoned flour mixture and sauteed in the skillet until golden brown. Then you pop it in the oven to finish cooking.
Meanwhile you make a terrific mixture of couscous, asparagus, parmesan, shallots, thyme, garlic and lemon zest. The flavors are so bright and springy!
Once the chicken is done, you set it atop the couscous/asparagus mixture and finish it off with a garlic/lemon/thyme infusion. Everything just works so well together! Each bite is full of so many flavor and texture combinations and none overpower. The chicken is tender, the asparagus crisp and fresh, the couscous is soft and chewy and the overtones of lemon, garlic, thyme and parmesan keep things lively. It's a dish you'd be happy to get in a trendy bistro but you have the pleasure of enjoying in your own home! And because it's pretty much a one-pan meal, you can make this in under an hour so it's entirely doable on those less-than-crazy weeknights!
Here's to the start of a great week!!
"Almost" One-Skillet Chicken with Israeli Couscous, Asparagus and Parmesan
Makes 4 servings
Prep Time: 45 minutes
- 1/2 cup unbleached, all-purpose flour
- Salt and black pepper to taste
- 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (if they're very thick, you might want to cut them in half lengthwise to thin them out)
- 4-5 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 1/2 cups Israeli couscous
- 2 shallots, minced
- 5 garlic cloves, minced, divided
- 1-2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves, minced, divided
- 1 teaspoon grated lemon zest, divided
- 4 tablepoons fresh lemon juice, divided
- 3 cups low-sodium chicken broth
- 1 large bunch asparagus, trimmed and cut into 1 inch pieces
- 1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1. Preheat the oven to 325ºF.
2. Place the flour in a shallow bowl and season with salt and pepper. Mix together. Pat the chicken dry with paper towels and dredge each piece of chicken in the seasoned flour, shaking off the excess. Transfer to a plate.
2. In a large heavy skillet, heat 1-2 tablespoons oil over medium-high heat until very hot. Add the chicken and cook for about 5 minutes per side, to brown the pieces well. When each side is well browned, transfer to a large baking dish and place into the oven to finish cooking. Do not rinse out the skillet.
3. While the chicken is baking, add another tablespoon of oil to the skillet. Add the couscous and let it toast over medium heat, stirring often for about 2-3 minutes, until it's golden brown. Add in the shallot, 3/4 of the garlic, half of the thyme leaves, and half of the lemon zest. Cook for about 30 seconds, stirring.
4. Pour in the broth, using a wooden spoon to scrape up any browned bits that have stuck to the bottom of the skillet. Turn the heat up and bring to a boil. Then lower the heat so that the liquid is at a simmer and cook for about 4 minutes, stirring often. Add in the asparagus, give it a big stir and cover the pan. Let cook for 5-6 minutes or until most of the liquid is absorbed and the asparagus is crisp-tender.
5. While that's cooking, whisk together the rest of the oil, garlic, thyme, lemon zest and 2 tablespoons of lemon juice.
6. When the couscous mixture is done, remove it from the heat and stir in the Parmesan and remaining lemon juice. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Divide the mixture among the plates. Top each one with a chicken breast and drizzle the lemon/garlic/oil mixture over the top. Serve immediately.
Note: Recipe adapted from The Best Chicken Recipes by the editors of Cook's Illustrated. I subbed in couscous for orzo and doubled the whole recipe. I also tinkered around with some of the proportions of spices.