Couscous Salad with Bacon and Cremini Mushrooms
This dish combines the deep, earthy flavors of fried bacon and caramelized cremini mushrooms with the crispness of red pepper and green onion. It’s easy to make and gets even better overnight as the flavors mingle.
The salad is dotted with large pieces of crunchy bacon.
The mushrooms develop a wonderful flavor from a long sizzle in molten bacon fat.
I love couscous because it’s a snap to cook�and, just like pasta or rice, it has a zillion uses.
You boil a little water, toss in the couscous, give it a stir, and let it sit—covered and off the heat—for about five minutes. Fluff it up, and it’s good to go. Easier than pie? You better believe it.
All about couscous
Couscous (a.k.a. granular semolina) is a big part of North African and Middle Eastern cuisines.
Traditionally, couscous is steamed in a couscoussiere—a double-decker pot designed just for this purpose.
Couscous is placed in the top part of the pot, which is perforated with lots of tiny holes. Meat and veggies are simmered in the bottom of the pot. The flavorful steam rises up from the bottom pot to cook and perfume the couscous. The couscous is served topped with the cooked meat and veggies.
(No, I don’t have a couscoussiere. If I had a ton of extra room…I…might. I can admit that.)
If you’d like to try cooking couscous like this at home, you can improvise pretty well with a fine-mesh strainer covered with a lid and set over a pot.
What is a cremini mushroom?
Cremini mushrooms are often sold in the U.S. as “baby bellas” or “baby portabellos.” Read a little more about them here at The Kitchn.
I fully admit that each time I served some of this, I was totally digging for extra pieces of bacon.
Couscous Salad with Bacon and Cremini Mushrooms
6 cups cooked couscous (that’s about 12 oz. of dry couscous)
1 lb. bacon
12 oz. cremini mushrooms, sliced
1 large, sweet red pepper, diced
2 Tbls. parsley, minced
freshly cracked black pepper
1-2 scallions, cut into rings
Cook the couscous according the package directions
To ensure that you get the proportions right, read and follow the cooking directions on the specific package of couscous that you bought.
For me, this meant combining water with a little olive oil.
Bring the water up to a boil.
Pour in the couscous.
Give it a stir and cover the pot. Take the pot off the heat. Let it sit, covered, for about 5 minutes.
After 5 minutes, uncover the pot. Your couscous should have absorbed all the liquid, and should look about like this:
Grab a fork and rake it across the surface to fluff the couscous up.
When your couscous is nice and fluffy, set it aside to cool.
Cut up the veggies
Grab your mushrooms. Wipe them down with a damp cloth to get any dirt off them.
Snap off the stems. Discard them if you like, or chop them up and saute them along with the caps.
Slice the mushroom caps into thin-ish pieces. Set them aside.
Remove the seeds and ribs from your red pepper. Cut into strips, then cut into small dice. Set aside (separately from the mushrooms).
Fry the bacon
Grab your bacon.
Slice it into pieces, like this:
Cut the pieces a little larger than you want them to actually be in the salad. Remember, bacon shrinks when it cooks.
Put the bacon in a large, non-stick pan on the stove over medium-high heat.
Give it a stir to spread it out. After a minute or two, it should start to fry and let off all sorts of glorious bacon fat.
Fry it like this, stirring occasionally, until it gets nice and crispy.
You want it to look about like this:
When it’s done, transfer the bacon to a bowl with a slotted spoon.
You’ll have a fair amount of bacon fat left in your pan. Pour all but a few tablespoons out. (Save it in a jar in the fridge and use it to fry potatoes!)
Fry the mushrooms in bacon fat
Toss your sliced mushrooms into the pan with the bacon fat. Set the pan over medium-high heat. Give them a stir to coat with fat.
Sprinkle on a little kosher salt.
And some freshly cracked black pepper.
Cook like this for a few minutes, stirring occasionally. After a few minutes, they should look like this:
And then start to get nice and brown. When they look about like this, scrape them out of the pan into the bowl with your cooked bacon.
Assemble the couscous salad
By now, your couscous should be cool enough to handle. Put it in a large bowl.
Toss in the cooked bacon and mushrooms.
Give a stir to mix them into the couscous.
Add the diced red pepper and the minced parsley.
And the scallions.
Stir to mix well.
Give the couscous a taste. Toss in a little kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper, if you like.
Refrigerate overnight to let the flavors mingle. (Trust me on this one. It’s really good now, but it’ll be even better the next day.)
Serve and enjoy!
Serve as a side dish, or a lighter main dish.