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Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Settling In

I think we have seen the last of the sun.  Oh, maybe we'll get a few glimpses of the sun over the next couple of months, but bright blue skies are just a memory at this point.  Winter is coming and it's time to hunker down.

I really love winter food.  This is both a good thing and a bad thing.  The good news is that braises and stews and all things rich and heavy are very satisfying, especially when it's cold and nasty outside.  The bad news is that I may as well apply all these delectable foods directly to my thighs.  My goal this year is simple.  I want to emerge from the winter months being able to fit into the same clothes I'm wearing now, in December.  I think I can do it.

So, here we are on the edge of winter and what better way to welcome it than with a lamb tagine.  I've made lots of tagines in the past but I always like to try something new.  I cut this recipe out of the New York Times  years ago and never got around to making it.  I'm sure what attracted me to it in the first place were the buttered almonds, which were a new and different addition to the traditional tagines I've made in the past.  I'm all for the new and different and I have clipped, saved, cooked, and eventually loved recipes for far less substantial reasons than buttered almonds.

You'll want to start this recipe at least a couple of hours before dinner because there's a fair amount of braising time.  Or you can make it a day or two ahead if you would prefer and then just heat it up for dinner.  Either way it will be rich and delicious.

Recipe:  Lamb Tagine With Apricots, Olives and Buttered Almonds
Melissa Clark, New York Times,  February 21, 2007


4 pounds bone-in lamb shoulder or neck, or 2 1/4 pounds boneless lamb stew meat, cut into 2-inch chunks
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon sweet paprika
1 teaspoon ground ginger
* teaspoon ground cumin
2 large Spanish onions, peeled and quartered
2 cinnamon sticks, each 2 inches long
Large pinch crumbled saffron
1 1/4 cups dried apricots, sliced
1 cup cracked green olives, pitted and sliced if desired
2 to 4 tablespoons butter
1/3 cup sliced almonds
Cooked couscous, for serving
Chopped parsley or cilantro, for garnish


Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Trim excess fat off lamb. Put meat in a deep Dutch oven or cast-iron pot with the garlic, salt, black pepper, paprika, ginger and cumin. Rub spices and garlic evenly all over meat.

Thinly slice onions, then mince enough of them to yield 1/2 cup. Add minced onion to pot with lamb; reserve onion slices.

Place pot over high heat and let cook, turning meat on all sides, until spices release their scent, about 3 minutes. You need not brown meat. Add 3 cups water to pot (it should come 3/4 of the way up lamb), along with cinnamon and saffron. Bring to a simmer, then cover pot and transfer to oven. Let braise for 45 minutes.

Turn meat, then top with onion slices. Cover pot and braise for another 45 minutes to an hour, or until lamb is very tender. Use a slotted spoon to transfer meat to a bowl, leaving broth and onions in pot.

Place pot on stove over high heat and add 3/4 cup apricots and the olives. Simmer broth until it reduces by a third and thickens slightly, about 10 minutes. Return lamb to pot and keep warm until serving. (Tagine can be prepared 4 days ahead; chill, then remove fat and reheat before serving.)

To serve, chop remaining 1/2 cup apricot slices. In a small skillet, melt butter. Add almonds and cook until well browned and toasted, about 2 minutes. Put couscous in a serving bowl and top with almonds and butter and chopped apricots. Pile tagine in center of couscous and garnish with herbs.

1 comment:

  1. When we got that snow storm in October, I resigned myself to the fact that winter had arrived. Boy was I wrong. The weather has been most cooperative and I'm loving it!

    I did chuckle to myself as I too want to fit into my clothes come spring. Since I've never enjoyed a Tagine or buttered almonds for that matter, I'll pretend I have lots of time and add this to my winter repertoire. It looks delicious!

    Thanks for sharing, Nadine...