What's the Deal With: Couscousiers?

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We're curious about these curvy, specialized steamers. The couscousier is a two pan contraption: While stews simmer in the lower pan, steam rises into the upper chamber to cook the couscous in the top pan.

Ann from A Chicken in Every Granny Cart got a couscousier for her birthday. While Ann agrees that the couscousier isn't necessary in every kitchen, she says "it is an awesome culinary indulgence." Ann first learned about the couscousier in Claudia Rhoden's A Book of Middle Eastern Food and has quickly found other uses for this "rather large piece of kitchen bling."

Read our interview with Ann after the jump ...

AT: Are you loyal to a certain brand of couscous?

Ann: I'm not. I just buy whatever's cheapest!

Apartment Therapy: I'd never heard of a couscousiere until I saw the post on your site. Where'd you first hear of them?

Ann: My boyfriend and I moved to Bay Ridge over the winter, a neighborhood in Brooklyn that has New York's oldest Middle Eastern population. There's a ton of wonderful Middle Eastern delis and shops and restaurants everywhere you turn . . .

AT: Your post says that you "think that this pot is the secret to amazing North African and Middle Eastern dinners." Where do you get your best recipes from those regions? A cookbook? A web site?

Ann: I am utterly and completely obsessed with Claudia's book. I've never made a clunker from it and I've cooked probably a dozen or so dinners from it. I'm also quite taken two Turkish blogs I've found recently, Almost Turkish Recipes and Zen In The Kitchen.

AT: Do you recommend couscousieres even for people with small kitchens, or is there something else we could use to create a make-shift couscousiere?

Ann:I don't think a couscousiere is an essential tool for anyone, to be perfectly honest, but it is an awesome culinary indulgence. If we were still living in our old apartment on the Lower East Side with it's 4 square feet of counter space, I would have made my boyfriend take the couscousiere back to the store immediately. It's a rather large piece of kitchen bling, but, it is not by any means a unitasker! The upper steaming portion is just perfect for steaming anything you want to be flavored by a stew cooked in the lower portion. Fish, vegetables, Asian buns, anything!

If you have a small kitchen and want to make authentic couscous you can easily improvise a couscousiere. Just use a metal colander that fits snugly inside a large pot. Don't worry about the holes being too big. You will lose a couple couses, but it'll still work out just fine. If it's not too obvious to state, do not use a plastic colander! It'll melt over the course of the hour it takes to cook the couscous.

(Photo: A Chicken In Every Granny Cart)