Monday, November 15, 2010

Lamb Tagine

I was in Memphis, pre-Charlie, years ago and had this meal at a dinner party at a family friend's home in Midtown. The Craddock's were my uncle's best friends. We lost John to cancer in 2004. This meal reminds me of him and that fun night.

I asked Margaret where she found the recipe and immediately went out to purchase this cookbook when she divulged the secret. Not surprisingly it is published by Cooks Illustrated. It was such a great meal for a large group of people. E. and I have celebrated with our best pals over this meal on a few occasions. One very special New Years Eve we had McCall and Tyson over at The Nook to ring in 2006. The Nook was my apartment in Dupont Circle that was 600 sq. feet at best. I'm not even sure if I had a dining room table yet. We weren't engaged and E. lived just four blocks north in Adams Morgan. We served little Pops of champagne with straws and then went to Mandarin to listen to jazz. This meal brings up so many memories.

Lamb Tagine is a North African stew. It's mixture of spices is so unique and fragrant. There are even special pots to make tagine but my handy Dutch oven does the trick.

You need one important thing before you start, a good relationship with your butcher. Lee hooked me up with some great lamb shoulder. I bought three pounds and used half in this recipe. He is the butcher at the Harbor East Whole Foods. He didn't have lamb shoulder but made sure that it would be ready for me on Friday at the Mt. Washington Whole Foods. Ask for it to be cubed. I simply adore great customer service. Lee is so nice and helpful.

You have to brown the pieces of meal separately in a little swirl of oil.

Flipping only once or twice for a good sear.

Toast some almonds at the same time for later to top the dish. This added crunch is a nice addition to the meal.

Set your oven at 300 degrees and make sure you move the oven rack to a low enough setting that your Dutch oven will fit inside.

Transfer the seared lamb into a separate bowl with your tong, tong, tong, tong, tongs.

Get your pot holders ready. My wonderful grandmother knit these. My whole family has many of them from Francie. They are great because you can bleach them. I am to the moon excited that Francie will be visiting Stone Hill in a few short weeks for Thanksgiving. Our home is filled with her special touches of love.

I changed the portions for the blend of spices a tad. Clockwise from the upper left corner is a teaspoon of cayenne, teaspoon of coriander, 1 1/2 teaspoon of ground ginger, 2 teaspoons of cinnamon and 1 tablespoon of cumin in the middle.

Add two onions to the brown bits and reserved oil.

Add three tablespoons of flour and cook through with the blend of spices for about four minutes. 

Add one cup of chicken stock at a time.

Let the mixture thicken so you see a line on the bottom of the pan. Then add another cup of chicken stock.

Add a few Bay leaves, one can of diced tomatoes and a half cup of chopped apricots.

Throw in a mess of cilantro. I adore cilantro. Some people think it tastes like soap. You can leave it out if you don't like it Mom and Annette.

Add one more fourth of a cup of stock and bring to a simmer. Add the lamb and any extra juices back into the pot. Cover and put into your oven for one hour and fifteen minutes.

Take out and add one can of chick peas. Put back into the oven for another twenty minutes. Enough time to cook a pot of rice.

Remove with your grandmothers pot holders and dish up.

Throw a few fresh sprigs of cilantro and the almond slivers and you are set. 

Thank you Margaret for introducing me to this amazing dish and that wonderful party with John and Susan oh so many years ago. I'll never forget that night in Memphis. Thank you also Lee the Butcher. I appreciate your service more than you know. Susan, Francie and Lucy, we really can't wait to see you soon and will make another batch of Lamb Tagine for you when you are in town.


Ellen said...

This looks great! I LOVE cooking with multiple spices. I have a favorite recipe in my falling-apart More with Less cookbook I'm going to send you - I think you & E would like it!

Malcolm Gin said...

We love tagine in our house. We usually make it with olives and lemons and some kind of dried fruits. Om nom!

Anonymous said...

Hi: I just came over from Annachovie...
My mouth is watering: and it's breakfast time! This looks wonderful and I've always wanted to try tagine.. Ok, must find and make friends with a good butcher after we move in three weeks down to Chapel Hill!
I'm going to subscribe now..

Ella said...

Hi Nelle,
Thanks for reminding me. Our freezer is filled with meet of elk (or do you say moose?) and that is great, but I have always wanted to do something new with lamb. I only eat it at Christmas when we have a whole salted lamb shoulder in the owen.