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TAGINE Cooking - How To?

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I bought Claudia Roden's Arabesque and noticed a number of tagine recipes including "Lamb Tagine with Carmelized Baby Onions and Pears" ... I want to do it with more accessible chicken. And noticed a recipe for a tagine in Ana Sortun's Spice.

However a detailed reading of the recipes do not even mention the cooking vessel in the instructions, only when to "cover". No mention is made of the unusual top piece of the tagine. Both books appear to only require a covered skillet and both books call for cooking over a flame ... I'd always expected tagines to be used in an oven.

Online searching does not yield a lot more info.

Anyone have an idea of whether this is solely a stovetop item? Or also baking?

Any ideas on cookbooks which offer many tagine recipes?

Thanks!

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  1. From what I've read, a tagine (the cooking vessel, not the dish) produces a better end product than a covered skillet, but if you don't have one, tagine dishes are still delicious.

    Paula Wolfert is, as far as I know, the leading tagine authority in the U.S. Not only does she have a great book (Couscous and Other Good Food from Morocco) but she has a considerable online presence as well. I'm not sure if I'm allowed to post links to other food discussion forums, but if you do a search for 'Wolfert' you'll find some of the places she hangs out.

    4 Replies
    1. re: scott123

      I think it is fine to give references, and keep the chow talk here. Her website is a good place to start: http://www.paula-wolfert.com/

      Scott - any specific recipes that you've tried of hers you'd recommend. Moroccan cooking is one cuisine I have NO experience with. would love any thoughts of a good place to start.

      1. re: adamclyde

        Adam, I've read quite a bit of what Paula has to say on the subject, but, like you, my actual experience cooking Moroccan food is a big goose egg. I have to say that I've always been curious about it, but the prospect of actually obtaining a tagine and cooking with it has very little appeal to me. It's one of the only world cuisines that I can't get into. Moroccan and maybe some of the Scandinavian stuff :) Give me a pizza oven, a tandoor or even a crockpot- those I can get excited about, but a tagine... eh...

        Maybe it's the ubiquity of raisins (I don't do cooked raisins :)) or maybe it's the complexity. Deep down I'm a meat and potatoes kind of guy. I'm sure I'm missing out. Morrocan cuisine has a huge following of fervent devotees. All power to them/to the people on this thread. But it ain't me.

        1. re: scott123

          I find that cooking tagines is really simple, as the recipes I have often don't involve frying the ingredients or chopping the herbs - it all gets thrown in together. There are lots of recipes which don't require fruit - I agree that some of the prune ones can just be too sweet, but I have had amazing lamb and prune tagines where the cook has managed to make it taste lovely and caramelised rather than sugary sweet.

          I've tried to like them, but I'm not too keen on preserved lemons, so I', wary of any recipe which has loads of them in.

      2. re: scott123

        Thank you ALL for the replies and suggestions. I fell in love with the Staub Tagine which is on sale bigtime on Amazon!

        And I had completely forgotten about Paula Wolfert. Excellent!

        Also, Scott, do flip through the huge number of photos in Arabesque when you are in the bookstore. You may become a convert! :)

      3. I think that tagines can be used in the oven, but I have always used mine on the top of the stove - I think that's the most common way.

        1 Reply
        1. re: Theresa

          Traditionally, from what I've heard, tagines are used over a charcoal brazier. I would think that a stovetop is the closest thing most people have to that in their homes.

          I always use a Le Creuset dutch oven for tagines, and I think they turn out fine. There is a thread on egullet where people cook the same thing in a tagine and in a dutch oven and talk about the differences; from my memory, the unglazed terra cotta of a tagine is supposed to absorb more liquid, so tagine tagines are drier than dutch oven tagines.

          I've cooked tagine recipes mostly from Claudia Roden, Kitty Morse, and Paula Wolfert--that's listed in order of increasing complexity and work. I find the Claudia Roden recipes (from the New Book of Middle Eastern Food) to be a little too simple sometimes, so that they don't have the dimensions of flavor of the other two, but they are OK on a busy weeknight.

          In addition to Paula Wolfert, I like Kitty Morse's book Cooking at the Kasbah. One of her tagine recipes with chicken and olives is available online here: http://www.kittymorse.com/recipe2.html but it looks a little simpler than the ones in her book.

        2. I make my tagines in a dutch oven. I've used both cast iron and enameled and it comes out great.

          1. Paula Wolfert says that you can make any tagine in a Dutch oven. She uses both enamelled and plain cast iron. There was a lengthy discussion on the uses of the traditional cooking vessel on eGullet. You may be able to find it on their site. PW was a participant and gives directions for seasoning a new tagine, how to maintain etc.

            I have just about all of Wolfert's books and have cooked a great deal from them without feeling I needed yet another pot.

            1. I have a traditional fired clay tagine which I use in the oven up to 350 degrees. I also start the ingredients stovetop on a very low heat. The moisture collects on the sides of the cone-like lid and drop down continually basting the stew which makes it very moist.

              I am looking forward to getting this charcoal base for my tagine.
              http://www.tagines.com/pd_charcoal.cfm

              I really liked this Kylie Kwong recipe with one caution. I made it with chicken once but the flavours were too strong and they overwhelmed the chicken.

              Braised Moroccan-style baby lamb shanks
              http://www.abc.net.au/kyliekwong/reci...

              3 Replies
              1. re: Mila

                with deference that recipe doesnt seem too moroccan - it seems like it has everything and the kitchen sink from the SE Asian and Chinese seasoning arsenal in it (I guess not galangal and lemongrass..).

                1. re: jen kalb

                  LOL, fair enough, but it was tasty.

                  I got these two cookbooks on my wanted list.

                  Arabesque: A Taste of Morocco, Turkey, and Lebanon
                  Author: Claudia Roden
                  TASTE OF MOROCCO
                  Author: Herve Amaird

                2. re: Mila

                  I thin KK is a creative cook, and reflects that in her "Moroccan" lamb shanks. I've never seen a north African recipe that calls for fish sauce. A fish fumet maybe (Moroccan cooking is sometimes highly influenced by French cooking), but not an Asian fish sauce.

                  Tagines (the cooking vessels) come in two types; those for cooking and serving, and those for serving but not to be cooked in. Oh! And there's a third type; very small tagines used to serve spices and seasonings at the table.

                  Traditiona Moroccan tagine cooking is/was done in a tagine CLAY vessel over a (usually) charcoal fire. But lidded metal and clay pots have also been used traditionally for cooking tagines. There are also two dome shapes in traditional tagines; one is the cone shape everyone is familiar with, then there is the bell shape.

                  I'm not convinced the condensation streaming down the inside of a traditional tagine is much different than the condensation liquids that form and fall back into the food in any cooking vessel with a lid on. But the glazed clay can make a flavor difference. When new, glazed clay pots often impart an "earthy" flavor that metal or ceramic pans do not. With time, many glazes on earthenware pottery will craze, which allows for flavor absorption by the pot from whatever is being cooked that later feeds back to the next dish. I never worry about food contamination from such sources as the boiling and baking sterilize the pot with each use. And traditional tagines can be used in the oven, on top of the stove, or over a campfire.

                  As for the cast iron and ceramic coated cast iron tagines, well, they're pretty but that's about as far as it goes. Well, actually that's not true. They usually don't break if you drop them while a traditional (but MUCH cheaper) clay tagine will.

                  Here's a website where you can look over the various shapes and types of tagines:
                  http://www.tagines.com/

                3. You can use a tagine or clay pot/cazuela (assuming that it isn't strictly decorative) on the stove top or oven--even at high temperatures. If you need to, you can use a flame tamer to make the surface flatter and to distribute the heat more evenly. You can tell that it is good for cooking by looking at the clay. If it is dense and smooth on the bottom, then it can withstand high heat. If it is pitted and rough, then you don't want to use it on the stovetop (it could catch on fire).

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: butterfly

                    Are tangines glazed on the inside, and unglazed on the outside, like cazuelas?

                    The conical top should direct the condensate down to the side of dish. A covered pan or dutch oven should condense the steam just as well. Some dutch oven lids have bumps and rings on the underside, which encourage the condensate to drop on to the middle of the pot, not just run to the edges. It is hard to imagine any other significant difference between cooking in a tangine and a dutch oven.

                    Cook stores are sell a number of variations on the traditional tangine. Some have a ceramic top, but enameled cast iron base. I've even seen (online) a silicone conical top that could be used on any pot of about the right size.

                    I have a small cazuela (Spanish terracotta pan), and a couple of Chinese sand pots. Mostly I use these on a portable gas stove. Occasionally I've used them in the oven, and once tried one on my coil electric burner. The glazed ceramic surface is low-stick and easy to clean. Once up to heat, they retain heat well, and cook with a very low flame.

                    The latest No Reservations showed stews or soups cooking in large terracotta pots in a traditional Mexican breakfast spot. In shape they reminded me of large conical laundry baskets, big enough to require two people to carry them. I believe the fires were charcoal.

                  2. For anyone still interested, TAGINES are the main topic in the LA Times Food section this week:

                    http://www.latimes.com/features/food/...

                    1. Some sites and how-to guides caution against using a tangine in the oven. Apparently, the chimney (cover) being hot tends to dry out the dish too much - a cooler chimney allows more steam to condense back into the dish. I have used my very plain terra cotta styled tangine on the stovetop and in the oven and have not seen a dramatic difference. I have kept my cooking temp in the oven to 325 or less, however, and that might help.

                      Rather than grabbing patent recipes, try your creativity - all you really need is a meat (chicken, lamb, beef, wild game), a healthy amount of Mediterranean spices, some vegetables, olives, fruit (lemons, oranges, raisins, dates, apricots), garlic, onion, olive oil and a little water for moisture. Brown or sear your meat a bit with the garlic and onion, add your ingredients, distribute your spices, and set a timer for about 1.5 to 2.0 hours at low-to-medium heat. There are as many taste profiles as there are ingredients. I've had more fun with this dish than anything since my first grill!

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: Jack91

                        Sure you can use a schlemmertopf. The principle is the same, EXCEPT it is said that the height of the tagine top, and the resultant steam return makes it taste better. I've only used my "topf" for chicken (because it's small) and I've only used the tagine for large amounts - and I never knew that one could use it on a stovetop. I'm in West Palm Beach (ugh!) where no one I've ever met even knows what a tagine is.

                      2. so. could you use a Schlemmertopf (vessel) to cook a tagine (dish) in??

                        I have resisted getting a tagine (vessel) as I get so much conflicting advice.. fired or not.. stove top or not.

                        2 Replies
                        1. re: purple goddess

                          As an owner of a tagine, I would recommend not purchasing one. I usually cook my tagines in a dutch oven and they turn out great. Tagines take up a ton of room and IMO aren't worth the investment of space or $$.

                          -Amy
                          http://ourhomeworks.wordpress.com

                          1. re: ourhomeworks

                            I received a small (~8" diameter) glazed ceramic tagine by Forum as a gift. I've been afraid to use it. The booklet recipe serves 4 but I can't see fitting 2 1/2 lbs of lamb in this thing.

                        2. I have had my clay tagine for several years. It is recommended to soak it in water the night before use, if it hasn't been used regularly. I use it stovetop and start with a low flame and turn it up so I can sear the meat before adding the other ingredients. Silver Palate has a good recipe. I use chicken all the time and it is great. Having said that, I only use dark meat. I have also used a mix of lamb chops, chicken and mergez sausage and a lot of root veggies. I add the couscous to the mixture and serve it all in the tagine to the table. I love my tagine although I think a Dutch oven would work, as well.

                          2 Replies
                          1. re: sarah galvin

                            I can't come to grips with "searing" on my tagine because I'm unblessed with electric heat. Do you think one can sear on an electric stove top? Help!

                            1. re: jsf35mm

                              I would not use my clay tagine on electric heat unless you use some kind of spacer to keep it slightly off the element. There is something that is used with the old pyrex coffee makers that might work.

                          2. A friend gave us a really nice tagine for Christmas. I'm trying it out with a Moroccan tagine as I type. But earlier I used it to make no knead bread. It may be the *perfect* vessel for Sullivan Street Bakery bread. See for yourselves: http://www.flickr.com/photos/75667634...

                            I'm also thinking of experimenting with it for pancakes since I think the even clay heat on the broad nearly flat bottom could be pretty great.

                            7 Replies
                            1. re: rainey

                              Bread, really? The moisture coming off the cone doesn't soften the crust?

                              1. re: sarah galvin

                                Well, yeah. One of the concepts of Sullivan Street Bakery style bread is to bake it in an enclosed container that steams the crust as the dough bakes. What that accomplishes is a crust that stays supple and capable of allowing the dough to continue its oven spring as long as possible.

                                Eventually, of course, the heat dissipates all the steam and the crust sets up and browns. In fact, the crust of this style bread is far superior to what most home cooks could accomplish prior to Jim Lahey sharing his method for that reason -- it mimics the steam injection that commercial ovens have but our home ovens don't. When Lahey first shared his technique, he recommended dropping the formed dough into a hot conventional deep casserole. But the tagine with a shallow base and a high lid does the same job with MUCH easier handling.

                                1. re: rainey

                                  I am using a Le Creuset dutch oven and it makes fabulous bread. But the tagine drips, does it not?

                                  1. re: sarah galvin

                                    Can't see inside it but I would imagine there would be some condensation and possibly dripping from a wet stew or braise. ...unless, of course, it rolls down the surface of the lid and gets deposited around the perimeter. But dough has only so much moisture to give up -- no more in a tagine than in a deep casserole.

                                    If you've got a tagine try it and see what you think. I think it's MUCH easier to negotiate.

                                    Did you see the pix? That was a pretty nice loaf of bread. I didn't try it -- it was a gift -- but it looked as good as any I've done in deep casseroles or when I've baked the bread directly on a stone with the heavy, hot casserole upside down on *top* of it.

                                    1. re: rainey

                                      It is definitely worth a try. Thanks for the idea. Now I can make two loaves at a time - one with Dutch oven and one with tagine.

                                    2. re: sarah galvin

                                      So you bake your bread inside a covered Dutch oven? I've never really like my homebaked bread because of the tough crust.

                                      1. re: rtms

                                        I use a no-knead recipe from the NY Times. It makes fabulous crusty, yet tooth-some interior. A hit. I wouldn't say the crust is tough but it is chewy, just like European bread.