Couscous is a wonderful grain and change of pace from rice. It
is a staple in the Maghreb, the northwest area of Africa that includes
Morocco, Tunisia and Algeria. A “couscous mini-cuisine” has evolved
there. The base grain of couscous is durum wheat— a very hard wheat with
high protein. The durum endosperm is used to make couscous grain
and is also milled to make semolina flour. Like rice, couscous readily
takes on spices, seasonings and sauces. Most supermarkets carry a packaged
couscous, with small, almost fine, grains. It comes plain and seasoned.
The directions on all the boxes I've looked at call for boiling the stuff.
We are not going to do that.
Couscous is always steamed and never boiled, directions on the box notwithstanding.
Rehydrating the couscous by hand rolling and rubbing it and then steaming
it, make it a far better product than the boiled stuff.
This recipe works very well with packaged couscous. It follows
rather closely the procedures I was taught by master teacher, Pascal Dionot,
at L’Academie de Cuisine.
Yield: 6-8 servings
See Abbreviations, if needed
• 10oz couscous (box)
• 5oz water (rule: 2 parts grain, 1 part
water, by weight)
salt, or other seasonings
• 1T EVOO
• 1oz butter
1. Place grains in a SSB
· add 1oz water and hand roll and rub grains
to absorb it
· repeat until all water is in and there
are no lumps
· add salt or other seasonings
2. Add EVOO and roll/rub again. (The grains now should be wet
3. Place grains in cheesecloth and into double boiler
4. Steam for 10 minutes after steam emerges from the pot
5. Remove to the SSB
· when cool enough to handle but still hot,
add butter and rub in
6. Place in a serving bowl, cover and hold in a warm area
7. If necessary, reheat over steam and serve
The steaming liquid may be water, broth or stock. Cheesecloth
is used to ease the handling of the couscous—it’s needed. “The ultimate
goal is to have tender, light couscous swollen with the steam vapors of
the particular broth the recipe calls for.” Says Clifford Wright,
in his recent award winning book, The
If you wish to make a more authentic couscous and the savory dishes
that it traditionally accompanies, please refer to Paula Wolfert’s, Couscous
and Other Good Food From Morocco. This book, published in
1973, is a classic and remains a definitive source. Also refer to
Wright’s book. Their recipes call for a couscous with grains the
size of peppercorns, which is available at whole food stores and catalog
outfits. It is prepared as above in Steps 1-3, steamed for 20 minutes
in Step 4, and then rehydrated and steamed, uncovered a second time before
moving on to Step 5.
For our purposes, packaged couscous is the way to go.