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Milk Street Middle Eastern Favorites (Ep 412)

Pearl Couscous with Chicken and Chickpeas

Start to finish: 1 hour | Servings: 4 to 6

This is our version of the fragrantly spiced, stew-like maftoul with chicken and chickpeas that we tasted in Galilee. Maftoul, sometimes referred to as Palestinian couscous, resembles pearl couscous in shape and size but is made with bulgur. It is difficult to source in the U.S., but pearl couscous is a good substitute. For this dish, we first simmer bone-in chicken parts in water with aromatics, then remove and chop the meat, reserving it to add at the end. The flavorful broth that results from poaching the chicken is used to cook the couscous, so that rich, full flavor permeates the dish. Cumin, cinnamon and nutmeg add earthy, warm, spicy notes, and a spoonful pomegranate molasses brightens with its fruity tang.

Don't use boneless, skinless chicken parts. Bones and skin give flavor and body to the poaching liquid, and since the liquid is used to cook the couscous, the added richness is good. And don't worry if browned bits form on the bottom of the pot as you cook the garlic and onion. These bits build flavor.


  • 2 pounds bone-in, skin-on chicken breasts, leg quarters or thighs
  • 2 large or 3 medium yellow onions, chopped
  • 2 bay leaves
  • Kosher salt and ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 4 medium garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon grated nutmeg
  • 1 cup pearl couscous
  • 15½-ounce can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
  • 1 teaspoon pomegranate molasses, plus more to serve
  • 1 cup lightly packed fresh flat-leaf parsley, roughly chopped


I n a larg e saucepan , combine 5 cups water, the chicken, 1 cup of the chopped onions, the bay and 1 tablespoon salt. Bring to a simmer over medium-high, then reduce to low, cover and cook at a bare simmer until the thickest part of the chicken reaches 160°F for breasts or 175°F for legs/thighs, 20 to 30 minutes; flip the pieces once about halfway through.

Using tongs, transfer the chicken to a large plate and let cool. Strain enough of the cooking liquid through a fine mesh strainer to yield 4 cups; discard the remainder or reserve for another use. Remove the meat from the bones, discarding the skin and bones; chop the meat into bite-size pieces.

In the same pan over medium-high, heat the oil until shimmering. Add the remaining onions and cook, stirring, until lightly browned, 7 to 10 minutes. Add the garlic, cumin, cinnamon, nutmeg and 1 teaspoon each salt and pepper, then cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the 4 cups chicken-cooking liquid and bring to a boil. Stir in the couscous, then cover, reduce to medium-low and cook until tender, 5 to 8 minutes.

Remove the pan from the heat, then stir in the chopped chicken, chickpeas, pomegranate molasses and half the parsley. Taste and season with salt and pepper. Transfer to a serving bowl, drizzle with additional pomegranate molasses and sprinkle with the remaining


Start to finish: 20 minutes | Makes 2 cups

Muhammara is a spicy-tart dip for flatbread made from walnuts and roasted red peppers. The name comes from the Arabic word for reddened, and the dish originated in Syria, where it often is served alongside hummus and baba ghanoush. Aleppo pepper is made from ground dried Halaby chilies; it tastes subtly of cumin and fruit, with only mild heat. Look for it in well-stocked markets and spice shops, but if you cannot find it, simply leave it out—the muhammara will still be delicious. Serve with flatbread or vegetables for dipping or use as a sandwich spread.

Don’t forget to pat the roasted peppers dry after draining them. Excess moisture will make the muhammara watery in both flavor and consistency.


  • 4 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 7-inch pita bread, torn into rough pieces
  • 1 cup walnuts
  • Two 12-ounce jars roasted red peppers, drained and patted dry (2 cups)
  • 1 teaspoon Aleppo pepper (optional; see note)
  • ½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • Kosher salt and ground black pepper
  • 3 tablespoons pomegranate molasses, plus more to serve
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more to serve
  • Chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley, to serve

INSTRUCTIONS In a small skillet over medium, toast the cumin, stirring, until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Remove from the heat and set aside.

In a food processor, process the pita bread and walnuts until finely ground, about 45 seconds. Add the cumin, roasted peppers, Aleppo pepper (if using), pepper flakes, 2 teaspoons salt and 1 teaspoon black pepper. Process until smooth, about 45 seconds, scraping the bowl as needed.

Add the pomegranate molasses and lemon juice and process until combined, about 10 seconds. With the machine running, drizzle in the oil. Taste and season with salt and pepper, then transfer to a serving bowl. Drizzle with additional pomegranate molasses and oil, then sprinkle with parsley.

Garlicky Spiced Chicken and Potato Traybake with Pomegranate Molasses

Start to finish: 1 hour 10 minutes (20 minutes active) | Servings: 4

This meal-in-one is our adaptation of a recipe in “The Palestinian Table” by Reem Kassis, which she prepared for us on a recent trip to Galilee. In lieu of seasoning the chicken and potatoes with the Kassis family’s nine-spice blend, we make a simpler mixture from a few select ground spices. And to make a simple but flavorful sauce, we roast a handful of garlic cloves with the chicken and potatoes, then mash the softened cloves with pan drippings and deglaze with water. Dark, syrupy pomegranate molasses has a fruity, floral, tart- sweet taste that complements the fragrant spices and as well as the caramelization that results from roasting. Look for it in the international aisle of the supermarket or in Middle Eastern grocery stores. If not available, substitute with 1 teaspoon each lemon juice and honey in the seasoning mixture and serve with lemon wedges.

Don’t use boneless, skinless chicken parts, as they will overcook. Also, make sure to put the garlic cloves at the center of the baking sheet, where they’re protected from the oven’s high heat, so they don’t wind up scorched.


  • ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons pomegranate molasses (see note), plus more to serve
  • 1 tablespoon ground allspice
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • ¾ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ⅛ teaspoon ground cardamom
  • Kosher salt and ground black pepper
  • 3 pounds bone-in, skin-on chicken parts, trimmed and patted dry
  • 1½ pounds medium to large red potatoes, unpeeled, cut into 1½-inch- thick wedges
  • 8 medium garlic cloves, peeled
  • Fresh flat-leaf parsley, to serve

INSTRUCTIONS In a large bowl, stir together the oil, molasses, allspice, coriander, cinnamon, cardamom, 4 teaspoons salt and ¼ teaspoon pepper. Add the chicken and potatoes, then toss to coat. Set aside at room temperature while the oven heats.

Heat the oven to 450°F with a rack in the middle position. Place the garlic cloves in the center of a rimmed baking sheet. Arrange the chicken parts, skin up, around the garlic; this prevents the garlic from scorching during roasting. Arrange the potatoes evenly around the chicken.

Roast until the thickest part of the breast (if using) reaches about 160°F and the thickest part of the largest thigh/leg (if using) reaches about 175°F, 30 to 40 minutes.

Using tongs, transfer the chicken and potatoes to a platter, leaving the garlic on the baking sheet. With a fork, mash the garlic until relatively smooth. Carefully pour ¼ cup water onto the baking sheet, then use a wooden spoon to scrape up the browned bits. Taste the sauce and season with salt and pepper, then pour over the chicken and potatoes. Drizzle with additional pomegranate molasses and sprinkle with parsley.

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