The secret to the highly developed flavor in this Milk Street take on traditional Tunisian couscous is whisking the liquid from the stew into the steamed couscous. It's a crucial step for elevating the flavor and keeping the grains light and fluffy.


  • 2 cups medium couscous
  • 4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided, plus extra to serve
  • 3 1/4 cups water, divided
  • Kosher salt and ground black pepper
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons ground turmeric 2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs, trimmed and cut in half
  • 1 pound Yukon Gold potatoes, cut into 1 1/2-inch chunks
  • 6 medium carrots, peeled, halved lengthwise and cut into 2-inch pieces
  • 1 large red onion, root end intact, peeled and cut into 8 wedges
  • 2 jalapeño chilies, stemmed and thinly sliced
  • 6 medium garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1/2 cup harissa (more or less, to taste), divided
  • Lemon wedges, to serve


In a medium bowl, combine the couscous and 2 tablespoons of the olive oil, rubbing with your fingers until coated. Stir in 1 1/4 cups of the water and 3/4 teaspoon salt. Let stand for 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a medium bowl stir together the turmeric and 1 teaspoon each salt and pepper. Add the chicken and toss to coat. Set aside for 15 minutes. In a large bowl, combine the potatoes, carrots, onion, 1 tablespoon of the remaining oil, and 1 teaspoon each salt and pepper. Toss to coat, then set aside.

Stir the couscous to separate the granules, then mound it in a steamer insert or basket that fits into an 8-quart pot. Set aside. Set the 8-quart pot over medium-high and heat the remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil until just smoking. Add the jalapeños and cook, stirring occasionally, until slightly softened, about 1 minute. Add the garlic, tomato paste and . cup of the harissa to the pot and cook, stirring, until the mixture begins to brown, 1 to 2 minutes.

Add the remaining 2 cups water and bring to a simmer. Place the chicken in the pot, then top with the vegetables and any liquid in the bowl; do not stir. Bring to a simmer, then set the steamer insert or basket with the couscous on the pot; if using a folding steamer basket, set it directly on the vegetables. Cover, reduce to low and cook, maintaining a gentle simmer, until the chicken and vegetables are tender, about 45 minutes; do not stir the couscous or the stew.

Remove the steamer basket and transfer the couscous to a large bowl; cover with foil to keep warm. Stir the vegetables into the chicken, cover and let sit for 5 minutes.

Use a slotted spoon to transfer the chicken and vegetables to a large bowl; taste and season with salt and pepper. Measure 2 cups of the cooking liquid in the pot. Stir the remaining 1/4 cup harissa into it. Whisk the couscous until no clumps remain, then whisk in the 2 cups cooking liquid. Taste and season with salt and pepper. Transfer the couscous to a large, deep platter and make a well at the center. Spoon the chicken and vegetables into the well. Drizzle with olive oil and serve with lemon wedges.