Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Lamb Tagine

Two summers ago, much to Bill’s protest, I convinced myself that I absolutely, totally need to have a tagine. I told Bill that I need it since I am going to cook a lot of Moroccan food soon (I got the idea after a friend gave me a belly dancing CD.. huh??). Off I go to Le Creuset, and came home with a very happy Dijon Tagine. Fast forward two years later, my tagine is still unused (not even out from the box), next to my salt block I used once about two years ago for plating sushi and my brand-spanking new marble slab I plan to use “very soon” when I temper some chocolate.

Okay, fine. Not only do I hoard ingredients, I love my cooking implements as well. I’m pretty sure I have most of the implements mentioned in the book “Things Cooks Love”,  much to Bill’s dismay, since I am running out of kitchen counter space, cabinet space and pantry space and wound up invading the garage and storage room too.

After scoring some beautiful lamb shoulders from the Halal butcher down the road this weekend, I finally was able to cook with my tagine.  The resulting dish is so tender and juicy.  After Bill’s second helping, he was convinced that I really do need to the tagine.

Lamb Tagine
Recipe from Things Cooks Love

2 to 2½ pounds trimmed, boneless lamb shoulder or lamb shank, cut into 1-inch chunks
2 teaspoons coarse salt
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 cups ¼-inch-thick yellow onion wedges
10 saffron threads
1½ teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground ginger
½ teaspoon ground coriander
1 cup peeled, sliced (¼ inch) carrot
1 cinnamon stick
1 cup low-sodium chicken broth or water, plus more as needed
1 cup drained canned Italian plum tomatoes, cut into 1-inch chunks
2 stems Italian parsley, plus 1 tablespoon finely chopped
2 stems cilantro, plus 1 tablespoon finely chopped
4 artichokes, preferably with stems, or 1 (10-ounce box) frozen artichoke hearts
1 lemon, halved
4 ounces (about 1 cup) dried apricot halves (I used dried cherries)
2 tablespoons chopped preserved lemon rind (page 328)
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh mint

Place the lamb in a large bowl, sprinkle with the salt and pepper, and toss to coat evenly. Set aside. Heat a stainless steel–clad or cast-iron base of a tagine (see headnote for alternatives) over medium-low heat and add the olive oil. When the oil is hot enough to sizzle a piece of onion, increase the heat to medium, add the onion wedges, and cook, stirring, for 10 minutes, or until they wilt and begin to turn color. Meanwhile, in a small bowl, stir together the saffron, cumin, ginger and coriander. Add the meat, carrot, and cinnamon to the onion, increase the heat to medium-high, and cook, stirring constantly, for 5 minutes, or until the meat begins to brown. Add the chicken broth, tomatoes, parsley and cilantro stems, and the saffron mixture and bring to a boil. Place the lid on the tagine, decrease the heat to low, and cook, without disturbing the cover, for 1 ½ hours, adjusting the heat to keep the stew at a gentle simmer.

Meanwhile, if using fresh artichoke hearts, fill a medium bowl half full with water; squeeze the juice from a lemon half into the water, and add the spent lemon half to the water. Working with 1 artichoke at a time, pull the leaves back and tear them off where they meet at the base (bottom), until you reach the pale green inner leaves. (Reserve the leaves for another use.) Turn the artichoke on its side on a cutting board and, with a chef’s knife, cut the attached leaves off just where they meet the base. Cut the stem off the base and reserve. With a paring knife, trim the dark green outer layer from the base. With the tip of a spoon, scoop the fuzzy portion from the center and discard. Rub the trimmed artichoke bottom with the remaining lemon half. Cut the bottom into quarters and add to the lemon water. Peel the fibrous outer layer from the stem and cut crosswise into ½-inch lengths. Add to the lemon water. Repeat with the remaining artichokes.

After 1½ hours, test the meat for tenderness. It should be fork-tender. If it isn’t, simmer it a little longer and test again. When the meat is tender, drain the fresh artichokes and add them, or add the frozen artichoke hearts, and the apricots (cherries). Re-cover and cook for 30 minutes, or until the fresh artichokes are tender, or only 10 minutes if using frozen artichoke hearts. Stir in the preserved lemon. If the stew is swimming in liquid, use a slotted spoon to transfer the solids to a bowl, cover with aluminum foil, and place in an oven set at 200°F. Boil the liquid, uncovered, for 10 minutes, or until reduced slightly. Return the solids to the tagine.

Sprinkle the finely chopped parsley, cilantro, and mint over the top.

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