Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Seven Spice Rubbed Chicken Breast with Couscous

This dish gets titled "Seven Spice Rubbed Chicken Breast with Couscous" instead of "Moroccan Chicken with Couscous" because I used the word "Moroccan" in the title of a previous dish that apparently wasn't Moroccan at all. Well, what do I know? I'm just the photographer. The chicken was dry too, but again, what do I know?

Moroccan Chicken Breast & Couscous

The Food (Jhan)

Cumin, coriander, and cinnamon are three of my favorite spices. These three mix well to add great flavor to a variety of dishes and meats.I have successfully used the combination for lamb, beef, chicken, ground meats and with eggplant and tofu dishes.

In our house we often eat boneless, skinless chicken breasts (partly because they are low in fat, but also because they are versatile and cook fairly quickly). The biggest problem with chicken breasts is that they can be bland and dry if overcooked.

For these chicken breasts I created a rub of finely chopped shallots, garlic, a little minced onion, a handful of chopped cilantro, some cumin, coriander, cayenne, cinnamon, paprika, salt and pepper and 1/2 tsp brown sugar. You can mix the ingredients in a food processor or just mash together to create a chunky paste. Brush the breasts with oil and rub the paste all over them, allow to sit overnight. If the chicken breasts are fairly thick you may want to slice them into thinner pieces and coat them with the rub - these will soak up more of the rub's flavor and will cook more quickly.

Bake covered in a 400 degree oven for about 20-25 minutes until cooked through but still juicy, uncover for last 5 minutes of baking. Cover with foil to keep warm and let sit about 10 minutes for juices to settle.

Prepare the couscous using basic directions on the package but use chicken or vegetable stock instead of water. Add some cumin, cinnamon, cracked pepper and a little kosher salt to the broth before cooking, plus a clove of minced garlic and a little olive oil. When the couscous is ready, stir in a handful of chopped green onions and 2 tablespoons of finely chopped sun-dried tomatoes. You may also want to add some chopped toasted almonds or pine nuts for flavor and crunch.

Serve the chicken on top of a bed of couscous and spoon meat juices over all. If meat juices are sparse add a little stock to the pan and a dash of tamari, scrape up any browned bits in the pan, stir and simmer on medium heat to blend flavors. Sprigs of cilantro or chopped cilantro over the top of the chicken make a good garnish for the dish.


This was a plating disaster. I've had a lot of plates go wrong but still turn out OK, but this one was bad from the beginning.

I'm not completely sure what I expected this dish to look like, but when I came out to the kitchen, the last thing that I expected was to find each breast basically cut in half. That ragged gash looked hideous, like each breast had been attacked by some psychopathic serial slasher. I didn't really know what to do, so I grabbed a big handful of cilantro and stuffed it into the gaping stab wound.

I had another problem in that the plate I had chosen for this dish was way too large. Rather than waste precious time fiddling about trying to find a better plate, I just tossed the assaulted chicken on the couscous and sliced some Roma tomato onto the plate. Yuck. Winner of the ugliest plate ever award. I'm not proud of this one.

What you don't see is the lame excuse for a salad that we had. Jhan plated some salad fixings and I didn't like it, and rearranged everything... making worse than what she had done. I don't mind showing my mistakes, but that salad was beyond the pale.

Moroccan Chicken Breast & Couscous
I used a handful of cilantro to staunch the bleeding from the massive stab wound in the chicken.

Lighting and Photography

Moroccan Chicken Breast & Couscous Lighting
The lighting wasn't exactly a disaster on this dish, but it wasn't a success either. I'm not sure what I'm doing wrong with my lighting, but I swear I'm going to keep doing white on white set ups until I get them right.

For this dish, I placed two lights on the right, one toward the front, one toward the rear - both shot through a reflector. I also bounced a rear fill off a white sheet.

The light isn't hideous, it's just dull and uninteresting.

Moroccan Chicken Breast & Couscous

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