Thursday, October 11, 2012

Pan Seared Dijon Chicken and Israeli Couscous with Dried Fruit and Almonds

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Some of you wonderful readers out there may be wondering if we do all our cooking adventures together.  The truth is, while we have shared many a fond memory in the kitchen, much of our cooking is done individually. We decided to remedy that one Sunday evening with quite possibly one of the most delicious meals we have had in a long time. We give you, Pan Seared Dijon Chicken and Israeli Couscous with Dried Fruit, Almonds and Scallions. And if you’re doubting that this could be as good as we describe it, as original skeptics ourselves, we encourage you to read on. If you are planning to make both dishes together, which we obviously recommend, we suggest reading all the way through before you start to get an idea of how to best use your time!

Pan Seared Chicken with Dijon Sauce 

(recipe courtesy of Smitten Kitchen)

We decided that we were craving a really hearty and delicious chicken meal and as a sucker for condiments, the “Dijon Sauce” in the title really drew us to recipe.  To be honest though, we had never cooked with anything but chicken breasts before so we were unsure how great this would turn out.  We ventured into the uncharted land of dark meat with bones (!!) as a whole new adventure.  

For the chicken you will need:

3 pounds chicken parts (thighs, drumsticks, and/or breasts), with skin and bones
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
2 small shallots, thinly sliced
3/4 cup dry white wine
3/4 cup low or sodium-free chicken broth
1/4 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons smooth Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon finely chopped chives or the green parts of scallions

Preheat the oven to 450, making sure you have a middle rack set up first. The chicken should be cleaned and patted dry, then seasoned with salt and pepper. (On a side note: While assembling this meal we discovered Amanda washes her chicken before cooking it. Please debate the following: How many of you out there clean your chicken prior to cooking it? Amanda was outweighed 2 to 1 here.  We are curious whether anyone else out there washes meat prior to cooking with it.)  We also put some of the salt and pepper under the skin to increase flavor.  

Because both the chicken and the couscous require scallions, we saved ourselves some time and chopped them all up at once. The we just divided the amount we’d need for each recipe and set it aside.

Then, heat the oil in a skillet, preferably cast iron for ease of transfer to the oven later.  While this recipe calls for three pounds of chicken, we only used about two and a quarter pounds. Thus, we were able to cook all four pieces of chicken in one go.  If you use more, cook the chicken in two separate rounds.  When you put the chicken in the pan, make sure it goes down skin side first, and cook for about five minutes. 


Turn the chicken once the skin side has cooked to a golden brown.  The skin may stick slightly to the pan, so do this with a gentle hand, and then cook for another five minutes.  When chicken has completed stove-top cooking, transfer to the oven and roast for another 15-20 minutes, until cooked through. While the chicken is in the oven, this is when you start cooking the couscous. See recipe below.  As the chicken came out of the oven, our dinner guest exclaimed, "Wow, I never knew chicken could sound good!" 

After cooking in the oven, remove chicken from skillet and set aside on a plate.  Then, add shallots, wine and broth to juices in the pan, and reduce about 2-3 minutes.  Once the broth is reduced by half, add the cream and boil  for one minute until sauce becomes slightly thickened. You can strain the sauce through a sieve if you don’t want little chicken bits in it, but honestly, we felt this added an immense amount of flavor we would not have wanted to sacrifice. (We didn’t put our sauce through a sieve in case you missed that!)  Then, whisk in mustard, chives and any additional salt and pepper desired.  This sauce is one of the best toppings we’ve had; it is incredibly flavorful, yet not overpowering. Amanda  poured it over her whole plate of food, which I’m sure does not surprise anyone who has shared a meal with her and knows her love of all things topping-related.

Israeli Couscous with Dried Fruit, Almonds, and Scallions

(recipe adapted from Epicurious)

Once you put the chicken into the oven, this is the perfect time to get started on the couscous. The great thing about this meal is that the chicken and the couscous share a number of ingredients, which makes it easier to shop and prep. This is by no means a healthy cooking blog, but when we are sure it won’t affect the flavor or quality, we always try to make things just a tad healthier. So we adapted this recipe from Epicurious by reducing the amount of butter by half and switched from pine nuts to slivered almonds. For the couscous you will need:

  • 2 ½ cups of Israeli couscous
  • 3 ¾ cups of low-sodium chicken or vegetable broth (If you buy a quart, reserve the final ¼ cup for the sauce for the chicken--we used low-sodium and low-fat chicken broth)
  • 1 ½ cups of dried fruit (we mixed craisins and raisins- but you can use any combo)
  • 1 ½ cups of slivered almonds
  • 5-7 scallions - finely chopped
  • ½ stick of butter
  • 1 ½ teaspoons of salt (we used sea salt, but you could use kosher or table)

First, pour the chicken broth and the salt into a large pot on the stove and bring to a boil. As soon as it comes to a boil, pour in all of the couscous and the dried fruit. Take the pot off the heat immediately. All you need to do now is let it sit for 15-20 minutes until all of the broth is absorbed. So easy, right?

If you are making the chicken portion of this meal, now is a good time to make the Dijon sauce!

Once the couscous has fully absorbed all of the broth, stir in the scallions, almonds and butter and you’re done! Despite the simplicity of this dish, the combination of ingredients in this couscous makes for an incredibly complex flavor. Take a minute to appreciate the beauty of this dish! Don’t the the craisins and scallions shine like little gems?




  1. sounds good, but too much work for me.

    1. Thanks for your feedback, Michele! If you are really pressed for time, the couscous only took about 20 minutes. You could easily pair that with a salad or vegetable for a quick meal! Your point is noted, however, and we will strive to try to simplify in the future!


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