Chef Kyle Bailey's Couscous
If you're unfamiliar with couscous, it's a North African dish of steamed pellets of semolina. The steamed semolina is then traditionally served with a meat or vegetable stew in countries like Tunisia and Morocco. Because the process of making couscous is relatively labor intensive, you're not likely to see it outside the packaged couscous in grocery stores. But if you're up for the challenge, continue to the next slides for chef Bailey's couscous method.
As a staple dish in many developing countries, you don't need much to make couscous. Just semolina, water, a cinnamon stick, bay leaves, and salt.
To start, add a cup of semolina, a pinch of salt, and a few drops of water in a large bowl.
Mix the semolina with your fingertips in a circular motion until small balls form. Drizzle more water as necessary if the semolina isn't clumping.
After most of the fine semolina has been mixed, it should look something like this. This is just the first stage of the process. Later on, the semolina will form slightly larger balls.
Move the mixture to a tamis (or drum sifter or similar fine mesh sifting device) to remove remaining fine semolina. Reserve the larger semolina balls in another bowl.
Here chef Bailey sifts the fine semolina from the larger clumps.
After the fine semolina is sifted out, you'll be left with the larger clumps that have been formed. It'll look something like diminutive Corn Pops cereal. Add the sifted fine semolina dust back to the mixing bowl and repeat the first steps until there's no semolina left.
Before steaming, pick out the larger balls of semolina. These will not cook through properly and not achieve the appropriate consistency.
In a couscousier (or steamer basket) fitted with a cheesecloth, add 1 cinnamon stick, 2 bay leaves, and 2 tablespoons of salt to the water. Bring to boil.
Add the couscous to the couscousier and steam for 5 to 10 minutes. Season with extra virgin olive oil and steam for another 5 to 10 minutes.
Once you've steamed the couscous, it should have a soft, pillowy consistency. Each clump should be cooked through.
Remove the couscous and serve immediately. It should be light and airy and taste subtly of cinnamon. As mentioned earlier, couscous is traditionally served with a meat or vegetable stew spooned over it. At Birch & Barley, chef Bailey reserves the couscous for the tasting menu. He's prepared it in several ways—with pan-seared black bass and seared lamb loin. But it's a staple, so it could really go with just about anything.