Weekly Winner: A Symphony … for One

IMG_0759This was quite possibly the first time I actually felt guilty cooking dinner just for myself and then sitting down solo at my dining room table.  Not because it was so incredibly decadent that I shouldn’t be eating it.  Not because it was one of my husband’s favorite dishes and he wasn’t here to enjoy it.  No, the reason I felt guilty (just a little) was because it was so amazingly good and elegant.  What business did I have serving myself this fancy schmancy dish??  This was truly a company-worthy dinner.  I should be showing this off to friends and family!  Instead, I sat down by myself and marveled at the combination of tastes, flavors and textures in this incredibly simple dish.

Seriously, I was not expecting this dish to be so good.  It was just something different — a new recipe I found that looked interesting and forced me to try yet another fruit that I don’t use much (mango).  But this was definitely one of those “symphony” dishes — where everything works together in harmony to make each simple component more amazing than it has any right being.

The dish is Grilled Chicken with Curried Couscous, Spinach, and Mango and it comes from Fine Cooking Magazine.  Fine cooking it was indeed.  The only change to the recipe was that I switched out the almonds in favor of walnuts and I had regular, pearl couscous, not whole wheat.  Finally, since it was just me, I did not grill the chicken but simply sautéed the lone chicken breast.

Grilled Chicken with Curried Couscous, Spinach, and Mango

Serves 4


5 Tbs. plus 1 tsp. extra-virgin olive oil

1 Tbs. thinly sliced shallot

1 tsp. curry powder

3 Tbs. white balsamic vinegar

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

4 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves (6 to 7 oz. each)

1 cup couscous

1 small firm-ripe mango, cut into 1/2-inch dice

1/4 cup chopped walnuts, toasted

1 Tbs. finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

2 oz. baby spinach (2 lightly packed cups)


Prepare a medium (375°F) gas or charcoal grill fire.

Heat 1 Tbs. of the olive oil in an 8-inch skillet over low heat. Add the shallot and cook, stirring, until translucent, about 1 minute. Add the curry powder and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 15 seconds. Stir in the vinegar and 3 Tbs. of the olive oil. Remove from the heat and season to taste with salt and pepper.

Coat the chicken with 1 Tbs. of the olive oil and season with 1/4 tsp. salt and a few grinds of pepper. Grill the chicken, flipping once, until well marked and cooked through (165°F), 10 to 12 minutes. Transfer to a plate and let rest.

Meanwhile, bring 1 cup water with 1/2 tsp. salt to a boil in a small saucepan. Put the couscous in a medium heatproof bowl. Add the remaining 1 tsp. olive oil and toss with your hands to coat the couscous. Pour the boiling water over the couscous, stir, and cover. Let stand 5 minutes and then fluff with a fork. Toss with 3 Tbs. of the vinaigrette, the mango, almonds, and parsley. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Toss the spinach with just enough of the vinaigrette to coat lightly. Divide the couscous among 4 plates. Top with the spinach, the chicken, and a drizzle of the remaining vinaigrette.

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