Recipe

Moroccan-Spiced Chicken and Couscous with Crispy Chicken Skins

by Tim Chin

I’m a big fan of family-style dishes that deliver intense but comforting flavors. And I like taking something like chicken—which gets a bad rap for being bland, easy to overcook, and straight-up boring—and making it special. This chicken dish features a couple of North African influences: I start with a spice blend reminiscent of ras el hanout (literally “head of the shop” in Arabic, ras el hanout is a spice blend that varies by region but traditionally includes a seller’s best spices). I incorporate some of the spice mix into a spicy-savory harissa-style paste (a popular North African hot pepper paste), which I use to build a flavorful base for gently braising chicken thighs until they are tender and moist. To give the dish some textural contrast, I remove and slowly crisp up the skins from the chicken thighs (which would otherwise end up soggy) in the oven and crumble them over the top. With a little couscous cooked in the same pot to soak up the extra cooking liquid, this dish is packed with warming flavor.

Photography by Steve Klise

Yield
Serves 4 to 6
SFS_CrispyChickenCouscous-83.jpg
Ingredients
9 g paprika
6 g ground cumin
  Kosher salt and pepper
2 g ground turmeric
0.5 g cayenne pepper
0.5 g ground cinnamon
0.5 g ground ginger
900 g bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs, trimmed
14 g plus 14 g vegetable oil, divided
70 g extra-virgin olive oil
55 g sun-dried tomatoes
50 g plus 50 g prunes, chopped coarse, divided
30 g plus 50 g pitted green olives, sliced, divided
24 g garlic cloves (4 cloves), peeled
140 g onion (1 onion), chopped fine
340 g chicken broth
283 g couscous
15 g lemon juice
20 g chopped fresh parsley
  lemon wedges
4 teaspoons paprika
1 tablespoon ground cumin
  Kosher salt and pepper
¾ teaspoon ground turmeric
¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon ground ginger
2 pounds bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs, trimmed
1 tablespoon plus 1 tablespoon vegetable oil, divided
5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
⅓ cup sun-dried tomatoes
⅓ cup plus ⅓ cup prunes, chopped coarse, divided
¼ cup plus ⅓ cup pitted green olives, sliced, divided
4  garlic cloves, peeled
1  onion, chopped fine
1½ cups chicken broth
1½ cups couscous
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 cup chopped fresh parsley
  lemon wedges
Essential Equipment
Instructions
    • 9 g paprika 
    • 6 g ground cumin 
    • Kosher salt and pepper 
    • 2 g ground turmeric 
    • 0.5 g cayenne pepper 
    • 0.5 g ground cinnamon 
    • 0.5 g ground ginger
    Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 350 degrees F/176 degrees C. Whisk paprika, cumin, 2 grams salt, 2 grams pepper, turmeric, cayenne, cinnamon, and ginger together in small bowl. Set aside 1 gram (½ teaspoon) spice mixture. 
    • 900 g bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs, trimmed 
    • 14 g vegetable oil
    Using your fingers, remove skin from chicken; brush both sides of skin with 14 grams vegetable oil and place in single layer on parchment-lined rimmed baking sheet. Place second sheet of parchment on top of skins and flatten with hands. Place second rimmed baking sheet on top so that parchment and skins are sandwiched between baking sheets. Bake until skins are uniformly brown and crisp, 50 to 60 minutes, rotating baking sheets halfway through baking. Carefully remove top baking sheet and discard top parchment sheet. Sprinkle skins with reserved spice mixture and season with salt to taste. Once cool enough to handle, break skins into 1-inch pieces.  
    • 70 g extra-virgin olive oil 
    • 55 g sun-dried tomatoes 
    • 50 g prunes, chopped coarse 
    • 30 g pitted green olives, sliced 
    • 24 g garlic cloves (4 cloves), peeled
    Meanwhile, process olive oil, tomatoes, 50 grams prunes, 30 grams olives, garlic, and remaining spice mixture in food processor until smooth paste forms, about 1 minute, scraping down sides of bowl as needed. Transfer 70 grams paste to bowl with chicken and toss to coat. Transfer 140 grams paste to small bowl and remaining paste to second small bowl.  
    • 14 g vegetable oil 
    • 140 g onion (1 onion), chopped fine 
    • 340 g chicken broth
    Heat 14 grams vegetable oil in Dutch oven over medium heat until shimmering. Add onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until translucent, about 4 minutes. Stir in 140 grams paste and cook, stirring occasionally, until fragrant and browned, about 2 minutes. Stir in broth, scraping up any browned bits, and place chicken, skinned side down, in pot. Bring mixture to simmer over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to low, cover, and gently simmer until chicken registers 175 degrees F/79 degrees C, 20 to 25 minutes, flipping chicken halfway through cooking.  
    • 283 g couscous 
    • 50 g prunes, chopped coarse 
    • 50 g green pitted olives, sliced 
    • 15 g lemon juice 
    • Kosher salt and pepper 
    • 20 g chopped fresh parsley 
    • Lemon wedges
    Transfer chicken to bowl, cover loosely with foil, and set aside. Stir couscous, 50 grams prunes, and 50 grams olives into pot. Cover pot, remove from heat, and let stand until couscous is tender, 7 to 10 minutes. Stir in lemon juice and season with salt and pepper to taste. Transfer couscous to serving platter and place chicken on top. Dollop remaining paste over platter and sprinkle with parsley and crispy chicken skins. Serve with lemon wedges. 
Instructions
    • 4 teaspoons paprika 
    • 1 tablespoon ground cumin 
    • Kosher salt and pepper 
    • ¾ teaspoon ground turmeric 
    • ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper 
    • ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon 
    • ¼ teaspoon ground ginger
    Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 350 degrees F/176 degrees C. Whisk paprika, cumin, 1 teaspoon salt, ¾ teaspoon pepper, turmeric, cayenne, cinnamon, and ginger together in small bowl. Set aside ½ teaspoon spice mixture. 
    • 2 pounds bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs, trimmed 
    • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
    Using your fingers, remove skin from chicken; brush both sides of skin with 1 tablespoon vegetable oil and place in single layer on parchment-lined rimmed baking sheet. Place second sheet of parchment on top of skins and flatten with hands. Place second rimmed baking sheet on top so that parchment and skins are sandwiched between baking sheets. Bake until skins are uniformly brown and crisp, 50 to 60 minutes, rotating baking sheets halfway through baking. Carefully remove top baking sheet and discard top parchment sheet. Sprinkle skins with reserved spice mixture and season with salt to taste. Once cool enough to handle, break skins into 1-inch pieces.  
    • 5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil 
    • ⅓ cup sun-dried tomatoes 
    • ⅓ cup prunes, chopped coarse 
    • ¼ cup pitted green olives, sliced 
    • 4 garlic cloves, peeled
    Meanwhile, process olive oil, tomatoes, ⅓ cup prunes, ¼ cup olives, garlic, and remaining spice mixture in food processor until smooth paste forms, about 1 minute, scraping down sides of bowl as needed. Transfer ¼ cup paste to bowl with chicken and toss to coat. Transfer ½ cup paste to small bowl and remaining paste to second small bowl.  
    • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil 
    • 1 onion, chopped fine 
    • 1½ cups chicken broth
    Heat 1 tablespoon vegetable oil in Dutch oven over medium heat until shimmering. Add onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until translucent, about 4 minutes. Stir in ½ cup paste and cook, stirring occasionally, until fragrant and browned, about 2 minutes. Stir in broth, scraping up any browned bits, and place chicken, skinned side down, in pot. Bring mixture to simmer over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to low, cover, and gently simmer until chicken registers 175 degrees F/79 degrees C, 20 to 25 minutes, flipping chicken halfway through cooking.  
    • 1½ cups couscous 
    • ⅓ cup prunes, chopped coarse 
    • ⅓ cup pitted green olives, sliced
    • 1 tablespoon lemon juice 
    • Kosher salt and pepper 
    • 1 cup chopped fresh parsley 
    • Lemon wedges
    Transfer chicken to bowl, cover loosely with foil, and set aside. Stir couscous, ⅓ cup prunes, and ⅓ cup olives into pot. Cover pot, remove from heat, and let stand until couscous is tender, 7 to 10 minutes. Stir in lemon juice and season with salt and pepper to taste. Transfer couscous to serving platter and place chicken on top. Dollop remaining paste over platter and sprinkle with parsley and crispy chicken skins. Serve with lemon wedges. 
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