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

Executive Chef Kyle Bailey making his couscous. [Photographs: Brian Oh]

Executive Chef Kyle Bailey at Birch & Barley in D.C. hates packaged food. So much so that he and his staff are committed to making just about everything from scratch, hardly ever opening a can or a package of anything in the restaurant kitchen. This often leads to engineering methods to make challenging items that aren't normally made in-house.

Never having tried homemade couscous from scratch, Bailey set out to make a great, authentic couscous in Birch & Barley's kitchen. Most people are familiar with couscous, but likely just the boxed variety from the grocery store. Because the process of making couscous is relatively labor intensive, you're not likely to see it done that often. But Bailey goes through the process of steaming the semolina, which requires some patience, but the results are pretty awesome.

It turns out light and airy and tastes subtly of cinnamon. Though traditionally served with meat or vegetable stew spooned on top, the couscous at Birch & Barley can be found with pan-seared black bass or a seared lamb loin. But since it's a staple, it could go with just about anything.

See the step-by-step making of the couscous >>

Birch & Barley 1337 14th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20005 (map) 202-567-2576;