Couscous Risotto

31 Comments

The name of this post sounds a bit strange, doesn’t it? I mean, couscous is couscous, and risotto is risotto, and they are completely different animals, so to speak. Well, back when I did a post on Lebanese couscous, my blogging friend Stefan, from Stefan Gourmet, suggested I make a risotto with it. Unfortunately I’d already used it all up.

However, I now have Israeli couscous on hand, and I think that’s exactly what I’m going to do. This Israeli couscous is about a third the size of the Lebanese, but has the same look – perfectly rounded balls like tapioca. And neither looks like traditional couscous, although they’re all made with wheat.

This is what the Israeli couscous looks like:

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So I decided to make a risotto out of this couscous, and add smoked chicken to it for a hearty meal. Here’s what I did:

Smoked Chicken

First I used my sous vide machine to prepare the 4 chicken breasts – 3 hours at 135 degrees.

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As soon as the time was up, I placed the breasts in my stove top smoker – it’s a Cameron’s*. I used about 2 tablespoons of hickory chips, and once everything started smoking, I timed 15 minutes.

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After 15 minutes, I removed the breasts to a cutting board to begin cooling. Then I cut the chicken into cubes and set them aside.

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Of course, any way you want to prepare your chicken is fine, and it absolutely doesn’t has to be smoked for this dish. I just thought I’d do something a little different. Grilled chicken would be wonderful as well. I wouldn’t suggest poached, shredded or pulled chicken, however.

Couscous Risotto

2 tablespoons olive oil
2 shallots, diced
1 cup Israeli couscous
2 cups chicken broth
Handful of chopped parsley
1/2 cup heavy cream, approximately

Heat the olive oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the shallots and sauté them for a few minutes.

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Stir in the couscous and stir them in the oil for about one minute: each cous should be coated in oil after this step.

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Over the course of about 45 minutes, add a little broth, about 1/4 cup at a time, and stir until absorbed by the couscous. I used the same procedure as I would using traditional rice for making a risotto. If you’ve never made one, here is a post of mine that details how to make a risotto.

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Continue this process until the liquid is all gone. Stir in the parsley, then gradually add the cream over the next 15 minutes or so.

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To serve, place some of the risotto in a shallow, pasta-type bowl, and top with some cubed smoked chicken. You can sprinkle everything with a little more chopped parsley, if you wish.

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note: Traditional risotto is often made with wine and broth as the liquids. And certainly the use of cream is optional. Also, grated parmesan is of course delicious in risotto – I was just trying to simplify the flavors of this dish.

verdict: I think I’ll make this again! It’s as least as good as risotto, and the round couscous grains provide a fun texture.

* My stove top smoker is a Cameron’s, but unfortunately I just told someone in response to a comment that it is a Bradley’s. My Bradley’s is an outdoor smoker, and somehow that name stuck in my head. I don’t remember to whom I gave this erroneous information, but I apologize, and hope you are reading this. I really love my Cameron’s stove top smoker!

31 thoughts on “Couscous Risotto

  1. I have a Cameron too, and don’t use it nearly often enough! Well, right now my kitchen has horrible ventilation, but once we change a few things around, I’ll bring my stove top smoker to play.

    I love this type of couscous, to me a lot more flavorful than the regular one – I like the texture, and using it as risotto is a fantastic move!

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  2. Hey, whadda ya know, your couscous came from the town next to my birth town. :-) The dish sounds great, Mimi. I’m a sucker for lemon & fresh peas in risotto so I’ll try this when peas are available in the next couple weeks. Thanks for sharing!

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  3. I adore this recipe! I enjoy couscous even when it’s rather plain, and this is so much more creative. You have some wonderful kitchen equipment. I enjoy hearing how you prepared the chicken. I would love to regularly eat at your table. :-)

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  4. This is such a great idea! Seems like it would be so much less finicky than a classic risotto. Not to mention that I just love the texture of Israeli couscous. So glad to have found your site, Mimi!

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  5. Mimi, thanks for the link and I’m glad that my suggestion seems to have worked out!
    Question about the chicken: did you smoke it at a low temperature? If I smoke chicken breast for 15 minutes, it will be cooked through and I won’t need to cook it sous-vide before. In fact, it would surely be overcooked.

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      • Interesting – I guess you’re cooking and smoking the same time, which I do when I smoke salmon. But I use my stove-top smoker on the stove over one burner. I heat things just to get the smoke smoking, and then turn it way down. Then it smokes, but not with so much heat. Do you have the same brand that I have? Camerons?

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