Published January 1, 2011.
Back-of-the-package instructions may be simple, but too often they yield a tasteless, soggy mess. To cook couscous properly, we had to think outside the box.
Regardless of brand, the boxed couscous that’s ubiquitous stateside offers bland, blown-out pebbles that stick together in clumps.
Fluffy, separate grains flavorful enough to earn everyday side-dish status.
Using the “pilaf method” often applied to rice, we sautéed the grains in butter, allowing them to brown gently and uniformly and helping them cook up fluffy and separate. Plus, with butter in the pan, we could create a handful of variations by briefly sautéing all sorts of add-ins, like spices, garlic, shallots, and even grated carrot.
To bump up the flavor, we replaced half of the water with chicken broth. After absorbing the hot stock-based liquid, the couscous grains were flavorful enough to stand on the plate without a sauce. And, since the saucepan we’d used to sauté the couscous was already hot, we could just add the liquid at room temperature, eliminating the need to heat it in a separate pan. The residual heat from the pan boiled the liquid almost instantly, and after a brief rest and a fluff with a fork, the couscous was done—with much better flavor (and just minutes’ more effort) than we got from following the box’s instructions.list of recipes