Tara O’Brady is the culinary mastermind behind the celebrated food blog Seven Spoons, now in its tenth year. Few food writers have such an insightful, intuitive understanding of flavor—or a more eclectic and inspiring range of culinary influences at work in their kitchen—than Tara. Fewer still write with her trademark warmth and thoughtful prose. She was one of the earliest food bloggers to enter the scene and has become one of the most highly regarded and unique voices in the culinary arena.
Tara O’Brady’s new book, Seven Spoons, features some of her very best recipes and many more that will become new favorites—crowd-pleasing breakfasts like Blackberry Buttermilk Whole Grain Scones, weeknight staples like Everyday Yellow Dal, and terrifically inventive desserts like Roasted Grapes with Sweet Labneh. Her style of cooking is eclectic, multicultural, fresh, and really beautiful. Today, Tara joins the Clever Cookstr to talk about her approach to everyday cooking.
Download the episode from iTunes to learn about:
- Tara's experience over the past ten years of food blogging
- Cooking for one, two, and a family
- Feeding adults and children together
- Quick and easy weeknight dishes
- & lots more!
Chicken and Couscous With a Punchy Relish
Serves 4, generously
This is a mostly hands-off dinner that only needs a salad of assertive greens as accompaniment. The chicken gets a head start in the oven, but then finishes up by sharing its pan with the couscous. This way, the pasta laps up flavor from the meat, while getting crispy on top, and in turn, the steam coming up from the couscous keeps the chicken incredibly juicy. An intense slurry of anchovies, garlic, and lemon makes up most of the piquant dressing, with bursts of contrasting sweetness from the raisins. You’ll want a large baking pan that’s not much deeper than 2 inches (5 cm). Pyrex and ceramic have the potential to crack when the liquids are added during roasting, so it’s best to avoid them this time. The baking dish I use is enameled metal and is 15 inches (38 cm) long, 11½ inches (29 cm) wide, and with a depth of 1½ inches (3.8 cm), but a 13-inch (33 cm) paella pan would be fine. Keep in mind that if the pan is too deep, the sides of the chicken won’t brown; if too small, there won’t be a lovely crust on the couscous; if too large, the liquid will evaporate before everything is cooked. It’s the Goldilocks of baked suppers, but when it’s right, it’s perfect.
1 whole chicken, about 4 pounds (1.8 kg) 1 tablespoon butter, softened
Medium-grain kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Approximately 2½ cups (600 ml) chicken stock or water
4 cloves garlic, with loose paper removed but unpeeled
8 ounces (225 g) large pearl couscous (see Note)
¼ cup (60 ml) extra-virgin olive oil (it needn’t be an expensive one but should taste good)
2 to 4 anchovy fillets, rinsed if salt-packed
Generous pinch of crushed red pepper flakes
1½ tablespoons capers, rinsed if packed in salt, drained if packed in brine
2 tablespoons golden raisins or dried currants
A couple of handfuls of flat-leaf parsley, chopped Pickled caperberries, for garnish (optional)
Preheat an oven to 400°F (200°C) with a baking pan on the lower middle rack.
Pat the chicken dry with paper towels. Rub the butter all over the chicken, making sure to give the back a goodcoating. Season generously with salt and pepper, inside and out. Position the wing tips behind the back and tie the legs together. Place the chicken, breast side up, on the preheated pan. Roast for 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, stir the juice from ½ lemon into the stock in a small saucepan. Heat over medium-low heat until steaming, then pop in the garlic. Pull from the heat and keep in a warm spot. (I leave it on top of the hot stove, but with the burner off.) After 30 minutes are up for the chicken, pour 1 cup (240 ml) of the liquid into the baking pan, holding back the garlic, and roast for 30 minutes more.
Cut the juiced lemon half into wedges; keep the other half for the relish.
Pull the baking pan from the oven. Sprinkle the couscous around the chicken. Pour the remaining liquid onto the couscous and tuck in the lemon wedges and soaked garlic. Return the baking pan to the oven and continue to roast until both the chicken and the couscous are cooked through, around 30 minutes. If the liquid is absorbed before the couscous is cooked, add more liquid, ½ cup (120 ml) at a time, as needed.
Let the baking pan stand for 10 minutes while you make the relish. Squeeze the (now) roasted garlic into a small skillet. Add the oil and set the pan over medium heat. When the oil is hot, add the anchovies and red pepper flakes. Cook, stirring and breaking up the anchovies and garlic, until they’ve turned into a grungy paste, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the capers to the pan, and cook for 1 minute more. Stir in the juice from the second half of the lemon, along with the raisins and half of the parsley. Reduce the heat and simmer for 2 minutes, then check for seasoning. Remove the chicken to a board and carve as you’d like. Fluff the couscous with a fork, then arrange the cut chicken on top. Scatter the rest of the parsley over the whole baking pan of chicken and couscous, and serve with the relish.
Note: I’ve used a variety of grains instead of the couscous with success—rice blends, bulgur, farro, and all sorts of smaller pastas, from orzo to alphabet shaped, and a mix of all of the above, in an exercise of getting rid of the straggling amounts found in my pantry. Most will cook in the prescribed 30 minutes, but allow some leeway either way, adding heartier substitutions like farro to the pan earlier than you would the couscous, and adding more water as needed.
Reprinted with permission from Seven Spoons, by Tara O’Brady, copyright © 2015, published by Ten Speed Press, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC. Photographs copyright © 2015 by Tara O’Brady.