Moroccan Chicken Rfissa – Trid with Chicken and Lentils

Moroccan Chicken Rfissa – Trid with Chicken and Lentils

Chicken Rfissa is a variation of trid, a Moroccan dish which traces it origins back to tharid, a centuries-old Arab dish of stew and broth served over bread. While trid can take different forms, rfissa is specifically a chicken and lentil dish that’s served on a bed of shredded trid pastry, msemenmeloui (or rezat el kadi)harcha, or day old bread. When served over crumbled harcha, it’s referred to as rfissa medhoussa; when served over cubed bread, it’s called treda.
Rfissa’s signature broth is uniquely and fragrantly seasoned with Ras el Hanout, fenugreek seeds (helba in Arabic), saffron, and other spices. While not an elegant dish, it’s memorably delicious and regarded by many as Moroccan comfort food at its best.
In some regions, a seasoning blend called msakhen is used instead of ras el hanout. Many consider the two blends to be similar, but msakhen includes herbs while ras el hanout does not. Msakhen also adds an element of heat, so it’s sometimes favored in cooler weather.
You’ll find rfissa served for family gatherings and casual company meals. It’s also traditionally served on the third day following the birth of a baby, due to the health benefits that fenugreek offers a nursing mother. Of course, it can be offered at other times as well.
The chicken and lentil stew is quite easy to make, but plan ahead to marinate the chicken (preferably overnight) and to soak the fenugreek. An organic, free range chicken is often preferred in Morocco, and it works best due to the long cooking time.
The shredded msemen or pastry is usually steamed in a couscoussier prior to serving.  Both can be made and shredded ahead of time, then stored in the freezer until needed. Using leftover bread will reduce that prep time.
You might also want to try Bormache, a regional variation of rfissa that includes the addition of tomatoes, garlic and dried herbs.

Ingredients

  • 1 large chicken, quartered or left whole
  • 3 large onions, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1 tbsp salt
  • 1 tbsp pepper
  • 1 1/2 tbsp ginger
  • 1 tbsp Ras el Hanout (or 1 1/2 tbsp msakhen)
  • 1 1/2 tsp turmeric

For the Lentils

  • 1/2 cup uncooked lentils
  • 4 tbsp fenugreek seeds, soaked overnight and drained
  • 1 1/2 tsp saffron threads, heated gently and then crumbled
  • 1 handful fresh cilantro, finely chopped
  • 1 handful fresh parsley, finely chopped
  • 4 1/2 cups water
  • 1 1/2 tsp smen (Moroccan preserved butter)

Msemen or Trid

  • 1 1/2 batches msemen, shredded (or trid pastry)

Instructions

Ahead of Time

  • Making and shredding msemen is best done ahead of time. Tear the msemen into bite-size pieces while hot off the griddle. When cool, store in a plastic bag. If prepared more than a day in advance, freeze the shredded msemen until needed.
  • The night before (or at least six hours before cooking), soak the fenugreek seeds and lentils in separate bowls of cold water. Drain when ready to use.  (If desired, the soaked fenugreek seeds can be tied in a cheesecloth to keep them separate from other ingredients in the pot.)
  • The night before (or at least six hours before cooking), mix the chicken with the onions, olive oil, salt, pepper, ginger, turmeric, saffron and Ras el Hanout spices in a heavy-bottomed pot. Stir to coat the chicken well, cover, and leave in the fridge to marinate.

Cook the Chicken and Lentils

  • Place the pot with the chicken on the stove over medium heat and cook, covered, stirring occasionally, for about 15 to 20 minutes, until a rich sauce has formed. 
  • If using a free range (beldi) chicken: Add the drained fenugreek seeds, parsley, cilantro and the water. Cover and simmer over medium-low to medium heat for about 1 hour. Add the drained lentils and continue cooking, covered, for another hour, or until the chicken and lentils are quite tender. Add water as needed during cooking to ensure that ample broth remains in the pot, and correct seasoning if necessary.
  • If using a regular, factory-raised (roumi) chicken: Add the drained lentils, drained fenugreek seeds, parsley, cilantro and the water. Simmer, covered, over medium-low to medium heat for about 1 hour, or until the lentils are tender and the chicken is well-cooked. There should be rich, ample broth in the pot. (If there's not, add a little water during cooking, tasting to be sure that the seasoning is not diluted.)
  • Taste the broth for salt, then add the smen, swirling the pot to incorporate it into the broth. If desired, remove the chicken from the pot and place it under a broiler for a few minutes to brown and crisp the skin.

Serve the Chicken Rfissa

  • Steam the shredded msemen in a couscoussier for about 10 minutes, or until steaming hot and tender. Spread or mound the hot, shredded msemen on a large serving dish. Add the chicken to the bed of msemen, and distribute the lentils, onions and most of the broth over all. Reserve a bowlful or two of broth to offer on the side. (If you tied the fenugreek in cheesecloth, empty it into a bowl to offer on the side as well.)
  • Rfissa is traditionally enjoyed communally from the serving dish, with each person eating from his own side of the plate by hand or with a spoon.

Notes

  • My family loves a generous amount of broth as well as a generous bed of pastry or msemen. I often increase the seasoning and liquids by half to ensure ample broth is available to serve on the side. 
  • Halfway through cooking, taste and adjust seasoning, particularly if topping off the liquids. You want the broth to be very flavorful.
  • Fenugreek imparts a traditional flavor to rfissa, but not everyone likes to bite into the cooked seeds. As noted in the directions, tying the seeds in a cheesecloth allows you to keep them separate from the main dish at serving time. Overnight soaking both softens them and reduces their pungency. 
  • Smen is a preserved, clarified butter that adds a distinctive flavor to traditional Moroccan dishes such as this one. It can be omitted without too much compromise, but its absence will be noted by those familiar with the dish.
  • Steaming is the traditional method of tenderizing and heating the shredded pastry or msemen (or stale bread), but you can use the microwave instead. Sprinkle a little water over the shredded pastry, cover and microwave until hot. The cover traps the steam and has the same effect as steaming. 
  • If your chicken cooks faster than the lentils, remove it from the broth and set aside, covered, to avoid it falling apart in the broth. Once the lentils are cooked, you can return the chicken to the pot to heat through for serving. 
  • If serving the chicken whole rather than cut into pieces, you can remove it from the pot when nearly cooked and finish it by roasting in a 450° F (230° C) oven.
 Prep Time.
Calories: 614kcal | Carbohydrates: 23g | Protein: 35g | Fat: 42g | Saturated Fat: 9g | Cholesterol: 116mg | Sodium: 1299mg | Potassium: 646mg | Fiber: 8g | Sugar: 3g | Vitamin A: 280IU | Vitamin C: 9.7mg | Calcium: 72mg | Iron: 5.8mg

1 hr
Cook Time2 hrs
Marinating6 hrs
Total Time9 hrs

Moroccan Couscous with Seven Vegetables – Couscous Bidaoui

Moroccan Couscous with Seven Vegetables – Couscous Bidaoui

This popular variation of Moroccan couscous features a variety of fresh vegetables stewed alongside lamb, beef or chicken. You can omit the meat for a vegetarian version; see the recipe notes.
For authentic results, the couscous should be steamed three times over the simmering broth. It doesn't add much time to your active prep work, but you will need a couscoussier or other large pot fitted with a steam basket. In a pinch, you can use instant couscous, but the texture won't be the same.Dried chickpeas are preferred over canned. Remember to soak them overnight. They and other vegetables are added to the broth in increments, based on how long they take to cook.

Course: Main
Cuisine: Moroccan
Keyword: couscous bidaoui, couscous with seven vegetables, Moroccan couscous
Servings: 8 servings
Calories: 940kcal
Author: Christine Benlafquih | Taste of Maroc

Ingredients

Couscous

  • 2.2 lb. dry couscous (not instant; I prefer medium caliber)
  • 1/4 cup olive oil or vegetable oil
  • 6 cups water, divided
  • 2 to 3 tsp salt (added after 1st steaming)
  • 2 tbsp soft butter (added after final steaming)

Meat and Broth Seasoning

  • 2.2 lb. lamb or beef, large pieces on the bone (or 1 large whole chicken)
  • 1 large onion, coarsely chopped
  • 3 fresh tomatoes, peeled and coarsely chopped
  • 1/4 cup olive oil or vegetable oil
  • 1 1/2 tbsp salt
  • 1 tbsp ginger
  • 1 tbsp pepper
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 1 handful parsley and cilantro sprigs, tied into a bouquet
  • 2 tsp smen - Moroccan preserved butter (optional; reserve until end of cooking)

Traditional Veggies

  • 1/2 cup dried chickpeas, soaked overnight
  • 1 small head of cabbage, cut in half or quartered
  • 3 or 4 medium turnips, peeled and cut in half
  • 8 to 10 carrots, peeled (cut in half lengthwise if large)
  • 1 or 2 small tomatoes, peeled, seeded and quartered
  • 1 or 2 small onions, cut in half (can use some whole fresh pearl onions instead)
  • 1 small acorn squash, quartered (or wedge of pumpkin)
  • 4 or 5 small zucchini, ends trimmed (or 8-ball round, cut in half)

Optional Veggies

  • 2 or 3 chili peppers or jalapeños (simmer in a little broth or steam until tender)
  • 1 cup fresh or frozen fava beans (add with 2nd steaming)
  • 2 or 3 sweet potatoes, peeled and cut in half (add with 3rd steaming)
  • 1 bottle gourd, peeled, cleaned and cut into large pieces (add with 3rd steaming)

Optional Tfaya - Caramelized Onions and Raisins

  • 1/2 cup raisins, soaked in water for 15 minutes
  • 2 or 3 large onions, preferably red
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 2 tbsp honey
  • 1/2 tsp pepper
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp ginger
  • 1/4 tsp turmeric
  • 1 pinch saffron threads, crumbled
  • 1 pinch salt
  • 1 tsp orange flower water (optional)

Ahead of Time

  • Soak the dried chickpeas in a large bowl of water overnight. (Or, use a quick soak method: boil the dried chickpeas for 4 or 5 minutes, then turn off the heat and leave them to soak for an hour.)
  • Wash and prep your vegetables. Start making the tfaya (optional; see Recipe Notes).
  • Set up an area to work with the couscous. In Morocco we use a gsaa (very wide, shallow serving and mixing dish), but another very large wide vessel or bowl can work. Have oil, water, salt, and butter out and ready. Lightly oil the steamer basket of a couscoussier.

Begin Making the Broth - See Recipe Notes if Using Chicken

  • Brown the meat or chicken with the oil, onion, tomatoes and spices in the base of a couscoussier over medium-high heat. Continue cooking, uncovered and stirring frequently, for about 10 to 15 minutes, until a very thick and rich sauce begins to form. 
  • Add the soaked, drained chickpeas along with the parsley/cilantro bouquet and about 3 quarts (or liters) of water. Bring to a boil, cover, and cook over medium heat for about 30 minutes

First Steaming of the Couscous

  • Drizzle 1/4 cup of oil over the couscous. Toss and roll the couscous around between your hands for a minute to distribute the oil evenly and break up any balls or clumps. 
    Add 1 cup of water and work it into the couscous in the same way--tossing and rubbing the couscous until all is well blended and there are no clumps. 
  • Transfer the couscous to a lightly oiled steamer basket, taking care not to compress the grains in the process. Place the basket on the couscoussier and steam for 15 to 20 minutes, timing from when the steam first appears over the couscous.

Second Steaming of the Couscous

  • Turn the couscous back into your gsaa or bowl. Allow it to cool briefly, then work in 1 cup of water, using the same tossing and turning as you did before. (You may need to use a wooden spoon if the couscous is too hot, but move to using your hands when it has cooled enough.)
  • Add the salt in the same manner, then add in another 1 cup of water. Toss and roll and rub the couscous with your hands for a good minute or two, again making sure there are no balls. 
    Transfer the couscous back to the steamer basket, again taking care not to compress or pack the grains.
  • Add the cabbage, onions, tomatoes (and fava beans, if using) to the couscous pot, then place the couscous basket on the couscoussier. Steam for 15 to 20 minutes, timing from when you first see steam emerge from the couscous.

Third and Final Steaming of the Couscous

  • Turn the steamed couscous out into your gssaa or bowl. 
    Add the turnips and carrots to the pot; cover and allow them to cook for 15 minutes while you work with the couscous.
  • In increments, work 2 to 3 cups of water into the couscous in the same manner as before--tossing and turning and rubbing the grains between your hands and making sure there are no clumps. Use only as much water as needed to make the couscous al dente.
  • Taste the couscous for salt and add a little more if desired. Transfer half of the couscous to the steamer basket, again being careful not to pack the grains. 
  • Add the remaining vegetables to the pot--the squash or pumpkin, the zucchini and the sweet potatoes if using. Top with a little water if the level has dropped below the vegetables. Taste and adjust seasoning--it should be well flavored, a bit salty and peppery.
  • Place the couscous basket back on the pot and cook until steam begins to emerge from the couscous. Gently add the remaining couscous to the basket and continue cooking. Once you see steam rise from the couscous, allow it to steam for another 10 to 15 minutes, or until light and fluffy and the latest additions of vegetables have cooked.

Serving the Couscous

  • Turn the couscous out into your bowl and work in the butter. 
    Add the smen (if using) to the broth in the pot and swirl to incorporate.
  • Work about 1 cup of broth into the couscous, tossing as you did before. Arrange the couscous into a large, shallow mound in your gsaa or on a deep serving platter. Make a large indentation in the middle to hold the meat. 
  • Retrieve the meat from the pot and place in the center of the couscous. Top it with the cabbage and squash or pumpkin. Retrieve the other vegetables from the broth with a slotted spoon and arrange all around meat (in pyramid fashion, if you like). Garnish with the chickpeas (and/or fava beans), chili peppers and even the bouquet of parsley if you like.
  • Drizzle several cups of broth carefully over the couscous. Offer the remaining broth in bowls on the side.
  • Tfaya is optional and can be used as a garnish or served on the side. 

Notes

  • If you are using chicken, be sure to remove it from the pot once it is cooked. Check after the first steaming of couscous. Free-range chickens may or may not require the entire cooking time.
  • You can reheat chicken for serving by adding it the pot for a few minutes at the very end of cooking, but I prefer to brown it in a 425° F (220° C) oven.
  • In our house, it's all about the broth. I often increase seasoning and water by half to ensure that we have ample broth for serving on the side. You don't need to do that, but do be sure to top off the water and check seasoning from time to time while cooking.
  • Dried chickpeas are preferred over canned. If you do use canned, drain and add them to the broth at the very end of cooking, after the final steaming of couscous. No need to simmer; they'll heat through while your're busy assembling the couscous for serving.
  • A note about carrots. Many Moroccans insist on cutting them in half lengthwise to remove the core. I prefer not to do that unless the core is dry and woody. If you do take this step, the carrots will cook faster than if they contain the core and/or are left whole, so you may want to adjust when you add them to the pot. I'll leave small and medium carrots whole, for example, but I'll cut very large carrots in half.
  • Steaming couscous is the only way couscous is made in Morocco. Be sure no steam is escaping between the steamer basket and pot. If it is, loosely wrap a long piece of folded plastic wrap over the rim of the pot and then position the steamer on top; the plastic film should create a snug seal.
  • For an extra delicious steamed couscous, use milk in place of water for the final steaming.
  • If you must use instant couscous, be sure to reconstitute it with broth from this recipe. Avoid making it soggy; it should be light and fluffy.
  • To make a vegetarian version of couscous with seven vegetables, omit the meat or chicken in the first step of making the broth. Follow the directions as written unless you are using canned chickpeas instead of dried, soaked ones. In that case, once a thick sauce has formed from the onions and tomatoes, you can add the water and proceed directly to the first steaming.
  • To make tfaya, combine all tfaya ingredients (except for the orange flower water) in a small pot. Cover and simmer over medium-low heat until the onions and raisins are tender and liquids have reduced to a thick syrup, about 30 minutes to 1 hour. Stir occasionally, and add a small amount of water during cooking if it's needed. An optional last step is to add a little bit of orange flower water to taste. Serve warm.
 
Calories: 940kcal | Carbohydrates: 130g | Protein: 49g | Fat: 24g | Saturated Fat: 6g | Cholesterol: 59mg | Sodium: 1565mg | Potassium: 1444mg | Fiber: 14g | Sugar: 12g | Vitamin A: 800IU | Vitamin C: 56.2mg | Calcium: 160mg | Iron: 6.8mg





Prep Time35 mins
Cook Time2 hrs
Total Time2 hrs 35 mins