29: Moroccan Chicken Salad with Couscous — The Chez Piggy Cookbook
TODAY IS A DAY WHERE I YELL ABOUT SALT. PREPARE THYSELF.
*grumble grumble grumble*
The Assignment: Moroccan Chicken Salad with Couscous from The Chez Piggy Cookbook: Recipes from the Celebrate Restaurant and Bakery by Rose Richardson and Zal Yanovsky
I’m pretty sure I’ve had this cookbook since college, y’all. I visited a restaurant called Chez Piggy in Kingston, Ontario on a family trip in the early 2000’s, and was fully impressed. And since they had an official cookbook, my folks gifted me a copy. Thing is, back then, this kind of cooking was WAY not on my level.
I was a broke-ass chump. When I wanted to get fancy, I would make a DIY streusel to put on top of my Jiffy coffee cake, the mixes for which I could score for a buck each from the HyVee. Bacon sandwiches were a staple of my diet. Not BLTs. They were white bread, mayo, bacon, and dried minced onion. (And they were delicious, but not the point.) When I got real fucking fancy, I would cook chili in my Crock Pot like once a year.
I was not going to be cooking from this book that called for things like saffron, preserved lemon, and duck legs confit any goddamn time soon.
SMASH CUT TO NOW! I’m finally digging into this cookbook… but it’s beginning to get hot, and after last week’s chocolate mousse, I’m back to needing a more functional recipe.
Things to Note About This Recipe:
- BUCKLE THE FUCK UP, CHILDREN, because I’m on a rant and the topic is SALT. I’ve harped on acid a lot. I’ve railed about the importance of including salt in your desserts for flavor balance. But GODDAMMIT, this is a normal-ass savory dish, so WHERE? IS THE FREAKING? SALT??? Go ahead, scroll back up and look…
… Did you look? YEAH, it’s noted at the very end of the dressing. No amount. In the directions, it tells you to season the dressing with salt and pepper to taste.
Just the dressing. Nothing else.
THAT IS NOT GOING TO CUT IT.
Please note also that this recipe is listed as serving 8. There are 6 cups of cooked couscous in it. A ton of veggies. A bunch of chicken breast. This recipe makes a LOT of food. And the ONLY SALT directed to be added is in THE DRESSING? No. NO. THAT IS NOT OK. Additionally, by the time you’re adding dressing, IT’S TOO LATE.
The whole time I’m making this dish, I’m looking back like I’m missing something. “Really? No salt in the chicken marinade?” Surely there must be a reason, I presumed. I wanted to give it the benefit of the doubt and make the recipe as written, but I’M SORRY, IT’S WRONG. And there’s no way that’s how they made it in the restaurant. Because in restaurants? Chefs season food. They season the shit out of their food. They don’t care about your health, they don’t care about your high blood pressure, they’re not your doctors — their job is to make food taste good. And how do you do that? With fucking SALT. It will make or break a recipe, and in this case, it breaks.
I was watching a bunch of The Chef Show this weekend, and Roy Choi calls it out in one of the episodes — you have to salt everything. And you do it while it’s cooking, so the salt can really work its magic alongside the heat. Salt. Everything.
To conclude my salt rant, this is how you fix a lot about this recipe:
- After the veggies are blanched? Salt them.
- That chicken mixture? Salt it. Add a bit before you cook it, and when it comes out of the oven, taste it and salt it again.
- The couscous? Add salt to the water before you cook it, so that the dressing isn’t doing all the heavy lifting.
- Yes, there are salty olives in the dish, but not enough to season all that food.
Don’t get too comfy, salt isn’t all this thing needs…
- Hey, how much chicken does this recipe call for? 4 chicken breasts. But how much meat? *shrug* Chicken breasts are hardly standard sizes, especially these days. The fact that they merely call for 4 chicken breasts is annoying. But the fact is that there are 2 sets of measurements listed here, leaving ample opportunity to also give, I don’t know, a weight measurement for the amount of chicken needed, and they don’t. They just write “4” again. Thank you, very fucking helpful.
- Also, after you chop the chicken? Toss it back into that cooked marinade in the baking dish before you add it to the bowl and pick up some more of the sauce. There’s freaking saffron in there, don’t just wash that down the freaking drain.
- Let’s back up to the blanching of the veggies listed in the ingredients. SCREW YOU. WHAT? No. That goes in the directions. First direction should be blanching the veggies. Don’t sneak a cooking step into the ingredients list. BAD FORM.
- As I mentioned before, this makes a large volume of cooked food. I’ve got a huge bowl of this salad. But the dressing? There’s about 8 tablespoons of liquid in there + a bunch of chopped mint. This is a WILDLY INSUFFICIENT amount of dressing for all of this (UNSEASONED BUT FOR THE CHICKEN MARINADE) food. I get that it’s supposed to be a bit sweet from the honey, but in the amount used, literally all I taste of the dressing is the sweetness. I suspect doubling the dressing would do the trick.
- Here’s the thing: It’s not a disaster. I’m not left with a pile of inedible food. Basically, each serving needs a healthy squeeze of lemon juice (or vinegar), a drizzle of olive oil, and a good amount of salt and pepper, and it’ll be OK. Not great — the veg & chicken were cooked without salt, so anything you add will only get to the surface at this point — but OK. However, with all the work I already did, I shouldn’t have to be doing extra seasoning only to end up with still-underseasoned food. Ugh, and now I’ve worn myself out being mad.
How did it taste?
Sigh. It’s fine. Or it will be.
Would I make this again?
Maybe, in order to test my theory that the appropriate seasoning and twice the dressing might fix it.
Do I recommend this book?
It’s really neither here nor there, since there aren’t a lot of copies of it available. I really don’t think it’s a dud — the restaurant was great — but I just know that I can’t trust the listed seasoning. Noted.
What’s the next recipe I want to make from this book?
I know, it’s another Moroccan one, but probably the Chicken Tajine, partly as a good reason to make the preserved lemons. It calls for harissa made from scratch… but I probably won’t make that, as I already have harissa in my fridge.
I’M DOWN TO THE FINAL BOOK IN MY LIST OF 30! Y’ALL! Y’ALL! I’VE ALMOST DONE THE THING!
If you’re wondering what I’m going to do with this blog after I complete this list of 30, oh, don’t you worry. I’ll find more damn recipes, believe you me.