This dish is similar to a Moroccan tagine but comes with something extra: A pearl couscous side dish cooks along with the vegetables and chicken in one pot. Ras el hanout, a Middle Eastern spice blend gives the chicken a flavor that will fill your mouth from around the world. Ras el hanout spice blend is available at specialty shops, or you can make your own; see NOTE below.
MAKE AHEAD: The casserole can be assembled 1 day in advance and refrigerated.
- 3 1/2 tablespoons ras el hanout (see NOTE)
- Six 6-ounce boneless, skinless chicken breast halves, trimmed of excess fat and any small tenderloins (reserve tenders for another use)
- 48 ounces canned whole tomatoes, crushed
- 2 cups (uncooked) Israeli couscous
- 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
- 1 1/2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
- 4 medium cloves garlic, crushed
- 1 small red onion, cut into 1-inch pieces
- 1 medium (10 ounces) sweet potato, peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes (2 cups)
- 15 ounces canned chickpeas, drained and rinsed
- 1/2 cup (4 ounces) dried apricots, each cut in half
- 1/4 cup golden raisins
- 1 large (8 ounces) zucchini, trimmed and cut into 1-inch cubes (2 cups)
- Chopped parsley or chives, for garnish
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Use 2 1/2 tablespoons of the ras el hanout to coat the chicken breast halves on both sides; place on a plate and cover loosely while you prepare the casserole.
Spread 1/2 cup of the crushed tomatoes on the bottom of a heavy-bottomed 5-quart casserole or Dutch oven.
Place the couscous in a medium bowl. Add the oil and toss to coat evenly, then distribute the coated couscous evenly over the tomatoes in the casserole.
Combine the remaining crushed tomatoes, the broth, garlic, onion, sweet potato, chickpeas and the remaining tablespoon of ras el hanout in a separate heavy-bottomed pot over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium and cook for 5 minutes, stirring once or twice. Remove from the heat; add the apricots, raisins and zucchini, stirring to incorporate.
Use a slotted spoon to distribute the vegetable-fruit mixture over the couscous, then pour the liquid from the pot over the mixture. Arrange the spiced chicken breast halves on top so their pointed ends touch at the center (like the spokes of a wheel).
Cover and cook for 45 minutes or until the chicken has cooked through. Let rest for 10 minutes, covered, before serving.
To serve, drizzle the chicken with oil and garnish with the chopped parsley or chives.
NOTE: To make the ras el hanout (3 1/2 tablespoons), combine the following ingredients in a small bowl: 1 tablespoon sweet paprika, 1 1/2 teaspoons smoked Spanish paprika, 1 teaspoon salt, 1 teaspoon ground cumin, 1 teaspoon ground coriander, 1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric, 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger, 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon, 1/2 teaspoon ground allspice, 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper, 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper, 1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom; mix well. Store in an airtight container for up to 6 months.
Real Entertaining columnist David Hagedorn.