About Last Night: Roast Chicken, Pumpkin Seed and Green Onion Cous Cous
The weekday dinner: the contemporary American challenge. With busy schedules and the devilish temptations of Rachel Ray and Sandra Lee to take the easy way out and use Cheez Whiz and supermarket pre-marinated monstrosities, consistently eating good food and not going broke is a difficult proposition.
At our house, the challenge is getting it done in a reasonable amount of time while taking care of other chores so that we don’t eat at 9:30 pm. So for the most part the key lies somewhere in preparing something that doesn’t enslave you to the stove. Things that can tolerate a few minutes without careful observation. A roast bird is usually a good choice, but for the casual weekday dinner, split breasts are even simpler.
Repeat after me: boneless, skinless chicken breasts are the handiwork of Satan. Skin and bones make your roasted meats taste GOOD. Oh, the humanity, but what am I going to do about that fatty skin?!?!?! I’d suggest eating the darn thing crispy as it’s downright delicious. But if you can’t control your portions to the point where the occasional serving of crispy poultry skin will send you spiraling into the fires of obesity and high cholesterol, then take off the skin AFTER it is cooked. It’ll keep your chicken moist. You’re deathly afraid of chicken bones in your food? Take it off AFTER it is cooked. It’ll add flavor.
So on to making a dinner easily and without much fuss. It’s all about doing things in the right order and cleaning up after oneself along the way. I figured that the whole meal can’t be experimental as we run the risk of going hungry. So roast split breasts are practically impossible to mess up. Next up, I noticed that carrots are in season and there were beautiful specimens at the local market, so buttered carrots it’ll be. Finally, something new. I wanted to experiment with couscous and something nutty with aromatics, so I decided to make couscous with roasted pumpkin seeds, green onions (both sauteed and raw), and prepared in beef broth.
Now that we have a menu, let’s break down what we’ll need:
- Split chicken breasts with skin and bones
- Seasonings for the chicken (in my case it was kosher salt, pepper and cumin)
- Some kind of vegetable oil to baste the chicken (I used canola since I ran out of olive oil)
2. Buttered Carrots
- Fresh carrots (no, not the ones in the baggie)
- Kosher salt
- Unsalted butter
3. Pumpkin Seed and Green Onion Cous Cous
- Plain cous cous
- Beef broth
- Unsalted butter
- Green onions
- Roasted pumpkin seeds
Preheat the oven to 400F and bring salty water to a boil. These two things take the longest so we’ll start there.
Next we get a half baking sheet, put our split breasts on it and season generously with kosher salt, add pepper and cumin to taste. Baste with olive oil (or in my case canola since I was out.) Put the breasts in the oven as soon as it’s ready.
Next we peel and cut the carrots as evenly as we can and add them to the water when it’s at a fierce boil.
Now we can take a break since the cous cous takes very little time to prepare and we’re waiting for breasts to roast and carrots to blanche. Go ahead, pour a glass of wine. Clean up your area. put up the knives, rinse your cutting board. Take another sip of wine. Turn the light on in the oven and admire the sizzling chicken slowly browning before your eyes.
Now check the carrots for fork-tenderness. I hate undercooked carrots. I don’t like them mushy, but seriously undercooked carrots are an exercise in chewing and that’s not me. But I’ll leave it up to you. You can shock them when they come out if you want to and reheat later, but this is a weekday dinner some I’m going to taste for saltiness (remember you boiled them in salty water so they should be somewhat seasoned) and add as necessary. I’ll also add some unsalted butter. This step might be somewhat controversial since I’m taking the vegetable of my humble meal and perverting it with the saturated fat and cholesterolly goodness of butter. So fine, skip that if you wish. You can substitute some olive oil, but it just isn’t the same. Give me a break now, at least I didn’t deep-fry them in lard, ok?
Since my pot with my carrots is now free, I’m going to take a cup of beef broth, add butter (I know, I’m on a roll with the butter) and bring it to a boil. When it boils, add a cup of cous cous, remove from the heat, stir vigorously and cover. Easy, huh? In the mean time I’m going to sautée (in BUTTER!!!) some green onions, particularly the oniony white and greenish-white part while saving the leafy part for garnish and texture.
So we’re basically done at this point. I’ll cook the chicken breasts until the internal temperature reads 165F, and let them rest for 5 minutes or so outside of the oven. While they are resting I’ll add the sautéed green onions to the cous cous, add salt as necessary (the beef broth already has salt so we have to take that into consideration) and roasted pumpkin seeds until we’re happy with it. Toss, and serve.
So that’s it. We have to basically wipe down a half-sheet (I guess you could have lined it in foil), clean off a pot and one sautee pan and we’re done.
Have another glass of wine while cleaning up.