Thursday, December 23, 2010

Chicken, Green Bean, Corn, Cous Cous Salad with Goat Cheese

Tonight I was in charge of dinner.  I knew I had two chicken breasts at home to work with so I found a recipe online.  Before I go any further, I should say I am relatively new to cooking.  Baking I have down, but cooking is a whole different experience that requires more concentration and the ability to coordinate the different components of the meal.  When I cook, things take a lot longer than expected and generally, there is at least one story that goes along with anything I make. 

So all that being said, another adventure in cooking began...

The recipe was the following from Epicurious:
  • 1/2 cup semi-pearled farro* or spelt berries
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 8 ounces skinless boneless chicken breast halves
  • 12 ounces green beans, trimmed, cut into 1 1/2-inch pieces
  • 2 cups fresh yellow corn kernels (cut from 2 to 3 ears of corn)
  • 3 green onions, thinly sliced (about 3/4 cup)
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh marjoram
  • 1/2 teaspoon coarse kosher salt
  • 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons minced shallot
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 4 ounces fresh goat cheese, crumbled (about 1 1/4 cups)
While the recipe called for farro (whatever that is!) I had Israeli cous cous in the cupboard that I wanted to use so I made that substitution.  Also, when I went to Whole Foods to grab all the ingredients it was absolutely crazy, it being the Eve of Christmas Eve and all, so I did not even bother venturing around to find the farro...cous cous it was!  Another random thing was marjoram - I had never heard of it before but turns out it a green clover looking herb with a pine and citrus flavor. 
Close up of marjoram
Lucky for me, when I walked up to the fresh herb section, it was actually the first one I saw, so I did not have to look too hard for it.  Having never heard of it, I thought I would have been a lot more difficult to find.  The other substitution I made was canned corn - not much in the way of fresh corn in December!

When I got home I gathered all the ingredients:
The ingredients.  I did, however, switch to Israeli cous cous, the larger pearl style.
Next, I chopped the green beans, the green onions, and the shallot.
all chopped and ready to go
I definitely need some work on my knife thinly cut green onions are not that thinly cut!  Nick's suggestion was to slice it down the center (vertically) then go ahead and slice the green onions.  The mincing was more of the same, just kind of randomly sliced and hoped the shallot was thin enough...but knew well enough that I would not mind I chuck of shallot or two.

Next I started cooking the Israeli cous cous according to the directions on the box.  Then, I took the chicken out of the fridge and generously salted and peppered the two breasts and placed them in a saute pan containing about a tablespoon of olive oil.  
cooking chicken
I sauteed the chicken on each side for about 9 minutes, a bit more than what is generally recommended but these were pretty thick so they needed the extra time.  While the chicken and the cous cous were cooking, I started cooking the green beans by boiling them in salted water for about 4-5 minutes.

I then assembled the dressing by combining 2 tablespoons of olive oil, a half teaspoon of kosher salt, and the marjoram in a small bowl.  As directed, I pressed the marjoram against the back of spoon along the bowl to "release the flavor."  Once it was all released, I then whisked-in the vinegar, shallot, and the mustard.
The dressing
When the cous cous was finished, I fluffed it up and added it to a big glass bowl, the one I was going to serve the dish in.  At this time the green beans were nice and al dente so I drained them in a colander and rinsed them with cool water so they did not over cook and added them to the bowl with the cous cous.  I then just opened the canned corn, drained the water out and added the corn to the same bowl.

When the chicken was cooked through, I cut it into smaller cubes and added the chicken to the big serving bowl and mixed all of it together.  Finally I added the dressing, which I wished I had twice as much of because I did not really pay attention to the amount of cous cous I used, so I made about twice as much as the recipe called for!  So I was a bit worried that the dish would be a bit bland.  The final touch was to add the crumbled goat cheese, which always is a nice decorative but tasty touch.  Who doesn't like cheese!
Finished Product!
I served the dish as is.  It really did not need any side dishes, as the salad had all sorts of components in it already.  When we tasted it, it was really flavorful, even with the the dressing situation, which turns out was not much of a situation.  The salad was a nice light meal that was relatively easy to put together.  Upon further reading (as I was cooking) turns out this is actually a summer recipe and would make a great addition to a BBQ.  Also, according to the recipe, you can put the entire dish together ahead of time (1 day), cover and refrigerate!

This is something we will definitely make again.  I also think you really can play with the different ingredients (or actually use farro!)  I think you could try some mushrooms or tomatoes etc...Regardless, this is a keeper.

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