Couscous alla Trapanese

By Kristy Mucci
August 29, 2018
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Author Notes: Hailling from Sicily, but with historical roots that go all the way back to North Africa, this Trapani specialty is topped with fish and other seafood, and served with an intensely rich fish stock that’s seasoned with cinnamon, bay leaves, and almonds. Although Sicilian locals insist on using handmade couscous (a process that takes a few hours and requires special equipment, but can be done!), you can achieve a similar result with the plain old boxed variety. Kristy Mucci

Serves: 8

  • 4 cups boxed couscous
  • 6 cups water, plus 4 cups for the soup
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 onions, chopped
  • 10 garlic cloves, smashed
  • 2 large stalks celery, chopped
  • 1 small bunch parsley, left whole, with a small amount reserved and chopped for garnish
  • 1/2 cup sliced almonds
  • 1 pound fresh tomatoes, peeled
  • 1/2 pound large head-on shrimp, heads and bodies separated
  • 2 pounds mixed fish and shellfish, such as red snapper, sea bass, calamari, and mussels
  • Red pepper flakes, to taste
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • Lemon, for garnish, if desired
  1. Prepare the boxed couscous according to the package instructions, using the 6 cups of water for the 4 cups of couscous.
  2. While the couscous is steaming, make the fish stock: In a large pot, warm the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the onions and garlic, cook until soft, about 3 minutes.
  3. Add the sliced almonds and peeled tomatoes, cook until the tomato starts to soften, about 3 to 5 minutes. Add water, red pepper, salt, pepper, and the shrimp heads and bodies, and bring to a boil.
  4. Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook until the tomatoes completely break down, about an hour. Add the remaining fish and shellfish, and simmer until cooked through, about 10 minutes.
  5. Transfer the fish and shellfish to a separate dish. Strain the fish stock. Pour 3 tablespoons of fish stock over the couscous and let sit, covered, for one hour before serving.
  6. Serve the couscous topped with the cooked fish, garnished with chopped parsley and lemon, and with the strained fish stock on the side (for pouring over the entire dish, as desired).

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