COUSCOUS

Have you been introduced to Couscous?  The larger, pearl-sized Israeli Couscous is what you might have in a good restaurant.  Delicious and classy.  But it takes more care and time to prepare.  Right now I want to discuss the more finely ground type of couscous.  It may look like a grain, but it is made from semolina wheat, so it’s not the thing for the gluten-free diet.  But there is hardly anything that cooks up more quickly, as the foundation of a tasty meal.

COUSCOUS CURRY definitely works with shredded chicken leftover from a roasted bird.  Truth is, I generally poach the chicken and save the poaching water to use in the final dish.  While the chicken is doing it’s thing, off the heat so there’s no need to worry about it, you can chop up the veggies.  Love those meals where prep dovetails neatly!

When you remove chicken from pot, measure out & save the ‘broth’.  Pour off the excess broth and put that one large pot – an enameled, cast iron dutch oven is great for this – back on the stove.  Medium heat, some olive oil and you start sauteing the veggies while the chicken cools.  When you are done, the meal stays warm in the pot for a long time, which is handy.  Find the complete recipe here.

Personally, if I can get out of the kitchen for a little while (even 10 minutes) before sitting down to eat with the family or guests, I enjoy the meal a lot more.  Maybe it’s a pet peeve of mine, but the fact that an hour (or more) of cooking & sweating often leads to a 15-minute sit-down mealtime bothers me.  Seems wrong, even if our lives are busy, you know?  Just another reason why quick meal prep makes sense.

I don’t want to stray too far from the Uses for Shredded Chicken theme here, but if you try the COUSCOUS CURRY recipe, I hope you’ll see the many possible ways to use this nifty wheat grain.  Swap out the seasonings, protein (shrimp?) and the veggies and you’ll have other great, simple meals.

CAESAR SALAD  with homemade croutons and shredded chicken is easy to make and easy to love.  I have made the dressing from scratch (minus the anchovies…yes, I’m a wimp) and it was wonderful and not that difficult.  I’ll dig around and try to find that recipe.  For the most part I agree with the woman in the old commercial:  “Bottled dressing?  Not on my fresh salad!”  But the truth is, I am a fan of Cardini’s Original Caesar Salad Dressing, which comes in a bottle.  It is available in most major supermarkets.

I choose to use my time making the  croutons.  Dice up some tired, dried out old bread, pretty much any kind is good.  A white bread like French or Italian is classic, but I’ve used some hefty multigrain breads with satisfying results.  Heat your cast iron frying pan and cover the bottom with good olive oil.  Toss in those cubes of bread and move them around quickly, so that each piece gets to soak up it’s share of olioi.  Once they are all coated, turn down the heat a little and sprinkle them generously with salt, pepper and a little garlic powder.  Traditional recipes have you rub a garlic clove on the inside of a wooden salad bowl and if you are a garlic lover (which I am), feel free to do that.  Because I have a slightly garli-phobic eater in my family, I’ve gone the gentle garlic route.

Keep the croutons moving, to avoid scorching; you will see that they begin to brown and crisp up pretty quickly.  Turn off the heat as soon as you see, and smell, that crusty, toasty action beginning.  The left-over heat in the pan will complete the process, while you turn to chopping the Romaine lettuce.  (If you need to hold the chopped lettuce for a while, cover it with a wet papertowel.  This trick works with salads and blanched vegetables like green beans and asparagus.  We’ll get back to it another time.)

When it’s time to serve the salad, toss some grated Parmesan cheese and the shredded chicken in with the Romaine and coat it lightly with the Caesar dressing.  Top with croutons and toss them in lightly.  Add another sprinkle of grated Parmesan and some freshly ground black pepper.  Done.  Serve.  Yum.

Next time, Chicken Pot Pie and Chicken Hand Pies.

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