I am open to trying different things in my kitchen. I have wanted to give couscous a try for while now. In doing some research on it, I came across the idea of serving it with pot roast. Since couscous is popular in Morocco, I though it would be appropriate to create a Moroccan inspired pot roast, using ingredients found in Moroccan cooking. This idea spawn the idea of creating a series of international pot roasts, each representing a specific country. So of course I am starting with the nation that gave me the idea in the first place - Morocco.
The start point is with the couscous. It would serve as the starch for this meal (no potatoes needed!). I steamed the couscous following my favorite cook Alton Brown's recipe. Next, I wanted to add another popular ingredient in Morocco - chickpeas (garbanzo beans). These I would cook by themselves and then add to the beef when ready. This would provide a nice creamy textural element along with some added nutrition. Next up to consider is the spices. Cinnamon, paprika, and cumin are all spices used commonly in Moroccan cuisine. I have never used cinnamon in a savory dish before, but I found that it really brought out the beefy flavor and you might not have known it was there, except for the cinnamon smell coming out of my kitchen. Finally to top it all of, I looked into what herbs are popular in Morocco, which lead me to choosing parsley.
3 lb chuck roast
2 cups beef stock or broth
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 tablespoon paprika
1 ½ teaspoons ground cumin
freshly ground black pepper
3 cloves garlic, chopped
canola or olive oil
3 medium carrots, peeled and cut on the bias
For the chickpeas
8 ounces chickpeas
¼ teaspoon baking soda
For the couscous
2 cups couscous
½ cup cold water
cooking spray (canola or olive oil)
The first thing you will want to do is brown the pot roast in a stainless skillet. You don't want to use non-stick because you want some brown bites to be stuck to the bottom of the pan. Heat the pan up over medium-high heat with a bit of canola oil or olive oil in the bottom. In the mean time, liberally salt both sides of the chuck roast. When the pan just starts to smoke, place the beef in. Cook until you get a nice brown sear on one side, then flip and repeat. Remove the beef to a slow cooker. Add the chopped garlic, cook just to soften, don't burn it. Then add the garlic to slow cooker. Now pour in about ½ cup of the beef stock and scrab all the brown bites off the bottom of the pan. I like using my tongs that have tongs with silicione edges. Add the liquid from the pan as well as the remaining stock to the slow cooker.
Now it's time to add in your spices : cinnamon, cumin, and paprika, along with some grinds of black pepper. I like using whole cumin seeds that I grind in a spice/coffee grinder. I also like to taste a bit of the liquid at this point, to see if it needs any additional salt. I then set my slow cooker to the 4 hour setting.
As for adding the carrots, I like to add them about an hour before the meat is done, so they aren't complete mush. But if you are going to be out and about feel free to add them now.
To prepare the chickpeas
Repeat after me, I will not buy canned chickpeas. They will never have the creamy, melt in your mouth texture that slow cooked dry chickpeas will have. If you have two slow cookers, you can cook the chickpeas at the same time you do the meat, as they take the exact same time - 4 hours. If not you can prepare them at an earlier time and refrigerate them.
To prepare them I use 8 ounces of dried chickpeas. I put them in the slow cooker and added plenty of water (somewhere around 5-6 cups. The chickpeas will need plenty of room to expand, so you want to keep them fully submerged. I also add in a little bit of baking soda about a ¼ teaspoon. The alkaline that the baking soda will provide to the water will have soften the outer skin of the chickpea.
To prepare the final dish
Once the meat and chickpeas are done, drain the chickpeas and add them to the slow cooker with the meat. You might not use all of them it's up to your judgment, you can save any leftovers for another use later. The chickpeas will absorb a bit of the cooking liquid when added to the meat, enhancing their flavor. Break the meat up with a fork inside the slow cooker and scoop everything out and serve over couscous. Chop up some parsley to add some freshness and another little dimension of flavor.
This pot roast is one of the best I ever made. The spices just really enhanced the flavor of the beef. The various texture in the dish were amazing. Overall, I seem to produce a lighter, more fresh tasting meal. I can't wait to try the leftovers and to make this dish for some friends. I am definitely happy with what came out of my kitchen last night and am excited about trying other internationally themed pot roasts.