Definitely a party dish, meant to showcase the hostess skills; its also frequently a Sunday get-together for the extended-family type of dish. Its name, moghrabiyeh, is rooted in maghreb (North Africa) to describe it as a Levantine version of the North African couscous. The deluxe version contains both lamb shanks and chicken, while the common version only uses chicken. In Beirut, Tripoli and Sidon there are specialized pastry shops where moghrabiyeh (the grain only) is sold fresh and made in-house. One can even find it stuffed into sandwiches in Tripoli as a street food. Most supermarkets in Lebanon and abroad sell the grains dried in convenient two pound bags. Moghrabiyeh keeps well in the fridge and can be frozen for a few weeks. This recipe will use the modest version with one protein only and the dried grains available everywhere.
Prep Time: 1 hour
Cook Time: 1 hour
6 cups water
2 tsp salt (to taste)
3/4 cup clarified butter or ghee or olive oil
1 lb dry moghrabiyeh
1 chicken (about 3 lbs)
1 cinnamon stick
1 bay leaf
1 large onion, peeled
1 lb pearl onions, peeled
1 1/2 Tbsp ground caraway
1 Tbsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp allspice
1/2 tsp black or white pepper
1 can or 2 cups cooked chickpeas
1/4 cup cornstarch diluted in about 1/2 cup water
1. In a Dutch oven over medium heat, pour the water and add a tablespoon oil and a teaspoon salt. Bring the mixture to a simmer and drop the moghrabiyeh grains into it. Boil them for 5 minutes then drain them in a colander set over a large bowl. Pour the water back into the Dutch oven.
2. Add the chicken, cinnamon stick, bay leaf and onion and bring to a simmer. Discard the froth as it appears. As soon as the chicken cooks, turn off the heat and let it cool a bit. Strain the broth and keep two cups on the side for the sauce later.
3. Heat the oil or butter in a large deep skillet and brown the pearl onions gently; transfer them to a bowl and add the moghrabiyeh grains; pan-fry them while adding the rest of the dry spices and start adding ladles of the broth gradually until the grains are tender. Add half the chickpeas and pearl onions and simmer gently for five minutes.
4. Heat the remaining broth in a saucepan and bring it to a simmer; add the cornstarch mixture and stir continuously, while adding the chickpeas and pearl onions. When thickened, taste and adjust seasoning.
5. To serve, remove the skin from the chicken and cut into serving pieces. Place the moghrabiyeh on a platter piled high, surround with the chicken pieces and serve with the warm sauce.
Moghrabiyeh spice mixes are sold online and in Middle-Eastern grocery stores and supermarkets; they can be used to save time.
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