Thursday, April 26, 2012

easy chicken thighs with couscous and spinach

This was so fast, and it's all so simple and delicious... and it was pretty cheap too.  A $2 package of chicken thighs from whole foods (our meat csa membership has lapsed... not sure how we feel about it), $5 worth of baby spinach, $1.25 worth of cous cous, and there's enough for two dinners tonight and a lunch tomorrow.  It was easy to make it all simultaneously too, I'll put a chronology at the end of the post.

for the Chicken:
-bone-in skin-on chicken thighs, trimmed of bigger fat pockets (sorry that's such a gross thing to say, but it's so worth it)
-your favorite spice rub (I had a cajun style mix Axel F's wonderful mother gave me, to which I added cumin, smoked paprika and a little allspice)
-salt and pepper

Pat the thighs dry and season generously on both sides with salt and pepper and your spice rub.  Leave them to marinate if you have time, I probably left them about 30 minutes (while I prepared other things).  Drizzle on just a little oil and make sure it coats both sides.

Line a sheet pan with oil and put a rack on top of the foil (if you have one, ok to skip it if not).  Put the thighs skin side down on the rack.

Preheat your broiler on high for at least 10 minutes, and make sure your oven rack is as close to the broiler as possible.  Put the chicken in, and let it broil for 5-7 minutes (until it takes on plenty of good color, even a little black in spots).  Flip the thighs over to skin side up, and broil another 5-8 minutes until the skin is crisp and dark brown, again a few black spots are great (my thighs were relatively small, so 5 minutes per side was plenty).

for the Spinach:
-3/4 to 1 pound baby spinach, nice and clean
-3-5 slices bacon (thick cut if possible, I love this kind for cooking with*), chopped
-3-5 cloves of garlic, smashed, peeled and chopped
olive oil
salt and pepper

In a large frying pan, fry the bacon in just a little bit of olive oil until nice and crisp, stirring occasionally, about 10 to 15 minutes (start it on high heat and then reduce to medium.  You can pause the proceedings here if the rest of the meal isn't ready, it comes together in about 2 more minutes from here on out.  Just before you're ready to eat, put the heat on high under the bacon and add the chopped garlic.  Stir around till you can smell it, about 30 seconds.  Add the spinach, season with salt and pepper and toss around until all the spinach wilts, another minute.  For an almost as delicious vegetarian version, just use more olive oil, fry the garlic briefly and add the spinach.  Even faster.

for the Couscous:
-2 cups couscous
-3 cups water or stock (I used some vegetable stock I had in the freezer)
-2 tsp salt
-3 tbsp butter
-1/4 cup chopped or sliced or slivered almonds

In a small saucepan, melt the butter.  Add the almonds, and let them cook together till the butter browns and the almonds turn deep golden.  Set aside.

In a large saucepan that has a fitted lid, combine the couscous, salt and water/stock.  Cover and bring to a boil over high heat.  Stir it once, turn off the heat, re-cover the pot, and let it sit for 10 minutes until all the liquid is absorbed.

With a fork, fluff up the couscous.  Pour the browned butter and almonds on top, and stir gently to combine.

Chronology (probably 30 minutes from start to finish):
1. prep chicken and leave to marinate on the rack.
2. chop bacon and garlic.
3. start bacon crisping up in a big frying pan
4. start browning the butter with the almonds
5. preheat broiler to high
6. measure couscous and salt into big saucepan and add water/stock, bring to boil, etc
7. put the chicken under the broiler
8. add garlic to now-crisp bacon, then spinach, etc
9. turn chicken and cook till done, while you stir the butter/almonds into the couscous
11. eat

*I'm getting no money for this recommendation, I just thing Trader Joe's Bacon Ends and Pieces might be the world's best bacon product.  It's usually super thick meaty slices, and so cheap ($3 for a whole pound)!  It's not good for when you want to fry in slices for breakfast, but it's perfect for cooking a bit at a time into recipes, and one package is enough bacon for baconing up 3 or 4 different dishes.  It's great having it in the fridge for adding a little richness to a veggie pasta dish, or to make spaghetti carbonara, or a quiche, or anything bacon is good in (which is almost everything).

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