Inspired by the classic Moroccan pairing of lemon, chicken and olives, this dish is salty, tangy and bright and with a pleasant chewiness from the couscous. Serve the chicken with the couscous salad as is or shred leftover chicken and mix with the couscous to serve the next day, making sure to brighten up the leftovers with a squeeze of lemon juice. For this recipe, after you put in the chicken, you can use the downtime to cut the olives and measure out the capers and spinach. Start the couscous about 10 minutes after the chicken has been in, so it's more or less ready at the same time.
Technique tip: For the garlic and olives, use the flat side of a chef's knife to crush them and break their structure. (They will more or less look like they were hit with a hammer and flattened.) For the olives, the pit will either pop out, or you can easily pull the meat off of it — it's actually pretty fun to do.
- 2½ pounds bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs
- 3 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for the couscous
- salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon ground turmeric
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 2 lemons, 1 thinly sliced, 1 zested and juiced (about 2 tablespoons)
- 4 large cloves garlic, smashed
- 1 cup pearled (Israeli) couscous
- 2 cups baby spinach or arugula
- 1 cup pitted and crushed green olives, preferably Castelvetrano
- 1/2 cup crumbled feta
- 1/4 cup fresh cilantro or flat-leaf parsley leaves and fine stems, roughly chopped
Heat the oven to 425 F with a pan 6 inches from the broiler and one in the middle of the oven.2.
Pat the chicken dry and trim excess fat. On a sheet pan, coat the chicken with 3 tablespoons oil, then season with salt, pepper, cumin, turmeric and oregano. Add the lemon slices and garlic, coating them in the oil on the bottom of the pan. Cook until the chicken juices run clear when pierced with a knife, 30-35 minutes. If the skin isn't as crispy as you'd like, then place under the broiler for 1-2 minutes.3.
About 15 minutes after the chicken has been in the oven, in a saucepan over medium heat, toast the couscous until lightly browned and fragrant, stirring occasionally, 3-4 minutes. Add 2 cups of water, 1 teaspoon salt, and cover and adjust the heat to bring it to a boil, then reduce the heat to maintain an active simmer. Cook covered until the couscous is just tender, about 8-10 minutes, until most of the water is absorbed. Add the spinach to the pot, allowing it to wilt, about 1 minute more. Drain excess water in a colander, then run through with olive oil in the sink, stirring to combine. Transfer to a serving bowl and add the olives and lemon zest.4.
Place the chicken and half of the lemon slices and garlic (or discard) on a serving plate. Transfer the remaining lemons to the couscous. Add the lemon juice to the existing sheet-pan juices, using a rubber spatula or wooden spoon to scrape up anything on the bottom of the pan. Pour most of the mixture over the couscous, stirring to combine, and drizzle the remaining over the chicken. You want the couscous to be lightly coated with the liquid but not swimming in it.5.
Top the chicken and couscous with the feta and herbs and serve.