Slideshow: Behind the Scenes: Making Couscous from Scratch at Birch And Barley in D.C.

Chef Kyle Bailey's Couscous
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.
Ingredients
Ingredients
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.
Mixing
Mixing
To start, add a cup of semolina, a pinch of salt, and a few drops of water in a large bowl.
Mixed
Mixed
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.
Sifting
Sifting
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.
Sifting
Sifting
Here chef Bailey sifts the fine semolina from the larger clumps.
Pre-Steaming
Pre-Steaming
Before steaming, pick out the larger balls of semolina. These will not cook through properly and not achieve the appropriate consistency.
Couscousier
Couscousier
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.
Steaming
Steaming
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.
Finished Couscous
Finished Couscous
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.