STEAMING THE COUSCOUS GRAIN - LE FAÇON DE FAIRE LE COUSCOUS A LA VAPEUR
ASTUCE: Pay careful attention to these pearls of wisdom, as they will ensure perfect couscous:
*The directions urge you to proceed gently, so please do. As you use your fingers and palms, urge rather than rub the liquids and fats into the couscous, very lightly, very gently.
*It is very important that the couscous steams uncovered. If it steams covered, condensation falls from the cover onto the grain causing lumps and making it soggy.
*Wrap a towel around the seam of the steamer to make sure steam doesn’t escape into the atmosphere.
*If you do not have a couscous steamer, you may use a traditional, two-part steamer.
Pour the couscous into a large, shallow bowl or onto a work surface. Drizzle the olive oil over the couscous. Thoroughly blend the oil into the grain with your fingers and between your palms, gently rubbing and working until the oil is completely blended into the couscous.
Place 1-1/4 cups (310ml) of the water in a small bowl, add the salt and stir until it is dissolved. Sprinkle the salted water over the couscous 2 to 3 tablespoons at a time, then work the water into the couscous with your fingers and palms as you did with the oil only even more gently, until the water disappears into and slightly softens the grain. Let the couscous sit for 10 minutes.
Prepare the couscous steamer by wrapping a wet cotton tea towel around the seam where the top and the bottom come together, to prevent steam from escaping. Bring the water in the bottom to a rolling boil, and place the couscous in the top of the couscous steamer. Steam, uncovered, for 30 minutes. Turn the steamed couscous out into a large shallow bowl or on a work surface and, using a wooden spoon, a plastic dough scraper, or your fingers (the couscous is very hot, so be careful) gently break up any clumps in the couscous without mashing it. At this point, if you do not plan to serve the couscous immediately, you may let it sit for several hours. If you plan to serve it soon, spread out the couscous slightly on the work surface, then sprinkle over it an additional 1-1/2 cups (375ml) hot water, 2 to 3 tablespoons at a time. Work it in using a wooden spoon and your fingers by lifting up the couscous and letting it fall through your fingers or from the bowl of the spoon. As soon as the couscous is cool enough for you to handle, work only with your fingers, handling the couscous very lightly until all the water is absorbed. The couscous should be inflated and feel slightly tender, though it will still be quite firm. Let it rest for 10 minutes. Check the cloth tied around the steamer - if it needs moistening, remove and moisten it, then re-tie it around the steamer. Return the couscous to the top of the steamer, bring the water in the steamer to a boil over medium high heat and steam the couscous for 30 minutes. Turn out the couscous into a shallow bowl or a work surface, add the remaining 1 cup (250ml) hot water 2 to 3 tablespoons at a time, working it as before, and let it sit for 10 minutes. Return to the steamer to steam until the couscous is fluffy and tender, about 15 additional minutes.
Turn out the couscous into a large, shallow bowl or onto a work surface. Cut the butter into tablespoon-sized pieces atop the couscous. Gently work the butter into the couscous with your fingers and a wooden spoon, breaking up any lumps and urging the butter into the grain the same way you urged the oil and the water into it. When all the butter has been absorbed, transfer the couscous grain to a warmed shallow bowl and serve. If you have also prepared the Couscous Soup (see page xx), then transfer the meat and the vegetables, with the broth, to a large warmed serving bowl. Serve the couscous, then top it with meat, vegetables, and broth. Serve with harissa alongside.