Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Israeli Couscous & Cheese – It Takes a Lot of Balls to Make this Recipe

I’ve always been fascinated with Israeli couscous, also known as pearl couscous, and have received several food wishes recently for a recipe showing it off. I’ve had it most often in cold salads, but for whatever reason I decided to turn it into a hot side dish.

Since it’s nothing more than tiny balls of lightly toasted pasta dough, I thought it would work well in some type of macaroni-n-cheese application. I decided to skip the traditional béchamel and instead use more of a risotto technique. Short story short, it worked great!

I’ve always been a fan of the southern delicacy “pimento cheese,” so I decided to hedge my bets and toss in some of the bittersweet jewels. All in all, I really liked the dish, and how well it held up. The shot you see at the end, when I dig the fork in for a taste, was actually filmed three days after this was made, and had been reheated in the microwave. Despite sitting in the fridge, and the less then gentle reheating, it was still creamy and delicious.

By the way, the chives may seem like a simple, optional garnish, but they’re not. Put them in. They really finished this recipe off right, adding a fresh counterpoint to the semi-rich mixture. I hope you give this “ballsy” recipe a try soon. Enjoy!


Ingredients for 4 small, side dish sized servings:
2 tsp melted butter
1 cup Israeli couscous
2 cups chicken broth
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup diced pimentos
3 oz sharp cheddar cheese
salt, pepper, cayenne to taste
1 tbsp freshly sliced chives

View the complete recipe

34 comments:

Steve said...

Čhef:

If one can't find Israeli couscous, do you think regular couscous would work? If so, are there any tweaks to the recipe that you'd suggest?

Chef John said...

no, totally different. Just use the smallest pasta shape you can.

BlueTeaBag said...

Thank Chef John, it looks great ! definitely going to try this one !! to bad so many people disliked the video only because the name Israel on the head line.

Anonymous said...

When my mother next tries to make her bland risotto I'm going to hoick the pan from her hands and make this for her, because let's be honest if you add a splosh of cream and hunk of cheese to anything and it's amazing!

Anonymous said...

since when couscous became Israeli?

EatAtlanta said...

First of all, Chef John you are amazing. I am a fairly advanced armature cook and every time I am afraid to try something that I have always wanted to make (i.e. scallops or a souffle) you make it seem so easy and doable. I am also an educator and I sincerely applaud you for making everything so approachable, understandable, and entertaining!

Second, I love Israeli couscous, man and cheese, and risotto. Thanks and bravo!

Cheers!

Anonymous said...

I have just discovered Israeli couscous and I love it. I have been putting it in allot of salads. But never thought of browning it before. I am sure this will only make it taste better. So I am going to try this tonight. Thank You for all your wonderful receipes.

Chef John said...

Thank you!

Adriana @ FoodCocktail said...

I must confess I didn't know about Israeli couscous until now, but I love the regular one so I must try the Israeli thing also. Thanks for the ideea!

Anonymous said...

i have always been eating israeli couscous that ended after adding chicken stock and reducing. I am so excited! this is an incredibly cool variation.

Inna said...

I'm an Isreali!I love your blog and watch your videoall the time just for fun or whenever I'm looking for new techniques or ideas ! too bad we don't have a lot of the American ingredients you use here.
We call these little guys "Ptitim" here and it's considered a children's favorite. They are a classic side dish to hot-dogs or schnitzel :)
never seen these made with cream and cheese. looks good !

Chris K. said...

This looks great! I'm curious to try out different combinations of cheese and other ingredients.

...and then I'm going to deep fry it.

Beerorkid said...

Been looking for another side and this looks delicious. My wife makes awesome risotto and this is close enough I know she will want to try it.

Love your stuff. We now make our potato soup the quick way like you showed and will not go back to our old way.

My wife is not very food adventurous, but your blog has given me ideas many times. once we can get the windows open we will be making the baby roasted potatoes for sure.

Sandra from Montreal said...

Mmm...cheese... :)

Anonymous said...

Dear Chef John,

how do you do do cut your chives like that?
Mines looks like they've been shredded. I can't get entire little pieces! What's your secret?

Love your blog!

Best wishes, Marina.

Chef John said...

Use a sharp knife! That's it. Super easy if you have a real knife.

edvige said...

Wonderful recipe but I not found Israeli couscous I will made with another. Ciaoooo

Daeril said...

I know this pasta!
We call it "tarhonya" and for long I thaught it was some Hungarian speciality. My mother and grandmother made it for us as side dish with stews. (perfect to soak up the rich sauce)
We ususally just fry it a bit in oil then add water and salt. When "al dente" you pour off the excess water and let steam covered for 5 minutes.
This risotto method is totally new for me, it must be very delicious!

MikkiW809 said...

I make something very similar to this with orzo! The smaller the pasta, the more surface area to cover with cheese. :) Thanks Chef john for another great recipe!

Joshua said...

Hey Chef John,

I plan on making this tomorrow, I was thinking about putting them in ramekins and topping with some breadcumbs and popping them under the broiler to brown a little. Any advice as far as making a nice breadcrumb topping? Possibly some garlic/parsley in there, not really sure how thats done. Any help is greatly appreciated.

Thanks a ton, you rock!

Chef John said...

No advice needed! Just buttered crumb plus whatever you like. :)

Chef John said...

Any topping from any of our casserole recipes will work.

Deirdre said...

Love your videos

Alison said...

Just fyi, the video on this post is for "cheater pierogis" not isralei couscous. (It did this on firefox, both on your page and in google feed reader.) I can go to your youtube and see the couscous video no problem. At least it's that way on my computer, which may or may not be out to make my life hell.

Julie Kidd said...

Holy cow Chef! I made this over the weekend and it is now my new FAVORITE side dish. I ate almost the entire pot...my boyfriend almost missed out. The only change I made to it was, instead of pimento, I had to substitute with roasted red pepper. The store was out of pimentos...but isn't pimento red pepper anyway? Nevertheless, this dish turned out amazing and I'm going to make it over and over again!
I love your vlogs Chef John!
Thanks!

Julie

Chef John said...

Thank you!!

Aascot said...

My fiance and I made this tonight and it is a KEEPER! We are of the frugal college student variety, and this will be a favorite for a long time. THANK YOU!!

PeterF said...

I just made this with Tarhonya, still worked out great!

Rob Pitingolo said...

Is there another color pimento?

If there isn't then I got ripped off at the farmers market buying some green and orange peppers marked as pimentos!

But I digress, this recipe is a winner! I'm a fan of mac and cheese, but those backed mac and cheese recipes that use a pound of cheese are so heavy and dense I can barely stand it. This, on the other hand, is the perfect balance of flavor and lightness.

dave said...

I have made this 3 times, the second time I did it, I forgot the pimentos, and my wife preferred it. That said, I love the pimentos. My only point is you can make this more of a family/kid friendly dish without the pimentos nd it is really good.

Julie. -- said...

They call it Ptitim here in Israel.. it's roasted pasta anyways.. it's nothing like couscous. There are different shapes of Ptitim.. there are star, rice, donuts, and balls shapes.. :))

Randy Sieb said...

I loved this. Had it with pork loin on the grill. It was perfect and so easy to make.

Mark said...

I'm shocked that no one actually told the "story" behind "Israeli couscous", it's fascinating actually.
"Ptitim" was invented during the 1950s when rice was very poor and was unable to import rice. The prime minister David Ben-Gurion, asked the food engineers to come up with a wheat-based rice substitute. They resulting rice-shaped roasted wheat pellets became a huge success and later on different shapes were introduced such as round couscous-like shapes which are being used in the recipe.

Therese Haas said...

Thank you, Thank you! Finally something to do with the Couscous I have that my sister got me. She got me the wrong stuff. I tried to make it like reg delicious Couscous, and it was awful! I didn't know what it was really called. So it made it hard to find a recipe for it. Oh hubby will love the cheese in this!!!