After living in Chengdu, Sichuan, China, my family has always really loved garlic—a lot! I had an idea that popped into my head about a side dish to go with my Moroccan lamb—large chunks of roasted garlic floating in a sea of fluffy couscous. My thought was that as you took a bite of couscous you would get a burst of roasted garlic goodness.
I went on line to see what others had done with this idea and I was mostly disappointed. Most recipes I found involved “take a box of couscous and add the roasted garlic flavor packet.” Looking at the few “good” recipes. I immediately saw the flaw with my own idea: Well roasted garlic is very soft and any mixing—even fluffing them with the couscous—would turn them into a paste. How was I going to mix the garlic in without mashing them?
The recipes I found simply did not even try to solve this problem, they simply mashed the garlic before stirring it in at the end before serving. My original plan of dropping the garlic into the couscous while it was cooking would clearly only make the problem worse. My final solution was to add the garlic after any other ingredients were mixed in—layering the couscous and garlic in the serving bowl, with no mixing and no mashing.
So now I had to decide on what “other ingredients” I should add. While just garlic and couscous would make an acceptable weekday dish, this is a Sunday dinner. Some recipes added various herbs. Some recipes added corn. Other recipes added pine nuts. While some of these recipes sounded intriguing, what was I going to add?
While olive oil would be more traditionally “Moroccan,” we have recently discovered Strauss butter, from a local organic dairy. While not cheap—at almost nine dollars a pound—it tastes like butter used to taste, before we all got used to bright yellow bars of “almost” butter. Butter and garlic is a perfect pair.
With that combination of flavors, I want the rest of the of the additions to play a supporting role. A bit of chicken bouillon to provide a base note. Some black pepper is always good. Finally, green onion for a flash of color and a complementary herbal high note should be enough.
I usually have made couscous using chicken broth, but I never seem to get enough flavor from store bought broth. Lately, I have been experimenting with chicken bouillon. I picked Herb Ox, because it is the only one without MSG. However, there is very little “chicken” in the mix. Also, there is enough salt that you do not need to add any extra to your dish. I have read that they make a “sodium free” version. I will be on the lookout for that.
Karl’s Roasted Garlic Couscous
3 Tbs. of butter (Strauss preferred), separate uses (olive oil for Vegan)
10-15 cloves of garlic
1 cup plain couscous
2 tsp. chicken bouillon (Herb Ox) (vegetable bouillon for Vegan)
½ tsp. black pepper, fresh cracked
2 green onions, sliced thinly
1. Melt one tablespoon of butter in a covered oven-safe bowl and toss the garlic to coat.
2. Cover the bowl and put it in a preheated 400º F oven.
3. Bake the garlic for 30-35 minutes until golden brown.
Tip: Shake the bowl every ten minutes to keep the garlic from burning.
Note: I usually do this only if I am baking something else, today I am making a vegetable tajine. It can be done in a toaster oven,to save energy, with the garlic wrapped in foil.
4. Set the garlic aside to cool.
5. Ten minutes before dinner, bring on cup of water to a boil in a small pot with a tight lid.
6. Stir in the remaining butter, couscous, chicken bouillon, and pepper.
7. Boil the couscous for one minutes, cover tightly, and remove the pot from the heat.
Tip: Couscous takes only a few minutes and the heat of the pot is enough to cook it to al dente.
8. Fluff the couscous and fold in most of the green onions.
9; Scoop some of the couscous into the serving bowl.
10. Scatter a few of the garlic over the pasta.
11. Put more couscous into the bowl and scatter more garlic.
12. Add the remaining couscous and garnish with the last of the garlic and the remaining green onion.
Tip: Do not stir the couscous after you have added the garlic.
14. Serve warm.