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Jan 19, 2014 07:20 AM

Using Julia Child rules to kick up tagine

Moroccan tagine (stew) is surely one of the great recent additions to western cooking. In the classic recipes, everything, vegetables, legumes, meat, and the signature Moroccan spices go into a ceramic tagine pot which simmers in a charcoal fired oven for 3-4 hours. The only work involved is a few minutes of peeling and chopping vegetables. (and making the charcoal, which is a lot of work; but if somebody else makes the charcoal) then, compared to other great Mediterranean recipes that involve, stuffing grape leaves, shaping and browning meatballs, or caramelizing onions - preparing a classic tagine is a snap.

Although the cone-shaped ceramic tagine pot makes a great presentation (especially if you can casually say: I picked it up in Marrakech) it is totally unnecessary. A pot on the stove, slow cooker or a casserole in a modern oven works just as well.

But, as is true of many dishes, playing by Julia Child (French) rules makes it better. I'm talking about adding 1 time-consuming step:browning, and 1 ingredient: wine. Some - not all - modern recipes suggest browning the meat. But browning the onions and all the other veggies in tagines, really adds flavor; as does the haram (forbidden by Islamic law) ingredient: wine. Here's what I did this past Shabbat, riffing on one of the Moroccan classics: lamb with apricots.

I took ~ 6 lbs. lamb shanks, I cut away all exposed large chunks of fat and threw a piece of fat into a heavy-bottomed braising pan; I browned the meat a couple of pieces at a time. Poured off excess fat, diced 6 large onions, and them in batches in the lamb fat, adding a little fat as needed. (If I had been putting other vegetables into the tagine, I would have browned them all , too.) I deglazed the pan with half a leftover bottle of a very dry Prosecco , any dry white wine would have done. I added 5 cinnamon sticks to the wine in the pan, along with ~12 oz. of dried Turkish apricots, sliced into rough chunks (so that they will dissolve into the sauce), put the meat on top of the cinnamon and apricots, put the onions on top of the meat poured ~2 cups of diced (Pomi) tomatoes on top of the onions, and went back to my desk while the tagine simmered all afternoon. Late in the day I checked to make sure the sauce had cooked down and was somewhat thick - if It hadn't been thick enough I would have poured the liquid into a separate pot and reduced it at a rapid boil. At this point I added about a teaspoon of cumin and about three of macerated ginger (Christopher Ranch brand ginger - I cut corners where I can). Adding the spices to the already cooked sauce at this point lets you do it to taste, and the strength of ginger and cumin varies so widely that sticking to precise measurements is unwise. (Garlic could have been used, and extra pepper)

This produced succulent dish of lamb that, if not authentically Moroccan, was really, really good. I served it over plain couscous with warm roasted vegetables (leeks, sweet red peppers, zucchini) alongside. One of the nice thing about tagines/braises is that they hold up so well on a warming tray until it is time to serve dinner. I wish more people on this board would post whole menus with recipes for meals that hold up to the constraints of cooking for Friday night and Shabbos lunch.

Dessert was a lemon curd tart. The first course was individually plated salads (mesclun, cucumber, mango, avocado, tomato) drizzled with vinaigrette and liberally topped with wonderful, smoky crumbled Kosher Lamb Bacon.

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  1. Great post. Can't wait to try this.

    1. ive done a ghormeh sabzi a couple of times with kolichel, thats INSANE and am trying, unsuccessfully at the moment, to master tahdig

      here is my ghormeh sabzi

      finely chop 3 bunches of parsley, 2 bunches of cilantro, 2 large yellow onions

      sweat the onions in 3 Ts of oil (i use olive oil, but everyone else i know used vegetable oil) until they become really soft

      add in the chopped greens and saute for about 20 minutes, make sure the onions are really mixed in to the greens

      add in 2 drained cans of kidney beans- ive tried other beans, and find that kidney are really the best match for this dish warm them through

      remove everything from the pot

      add 2-3 pounds of kolichel (i put them in whole, bc i dont like the meat to fall apart, i like to slice it up at the end, but many cut it into cubes) and brown

      add everything back into the pot with turmeric, cumin, a bunch of chopped fresh garlic or frozen dorot garlic cubes, 2 full chopped preserved lemons (i make my own and would happily post that as well if anyone is interested) salt and pepper

      add enough water to go about 2-3 inches (2 inches if youre going to be around and can check it in like 45 minutes to see if it needs more water, 3 if youre not going to end up checking it) above whats in the pot, and bring to a boil at a high heat uncovered

      when it hits a boil, cover it, move it to a low heat, let it cook for about 1.5 hours (longer will not hurt it- i have accidentally cooked it for 4-5 hours and it was still ridiculously delicious)

      i serve it over steamed basmati with chopped scallions on top and an israeli salad

      depending on how you hold abt reheating a stew- this is great on a blech the next day- some do it overnight in a crock pot- i didnt love it cooked overnight-

      but- im not a leftover person, and this is one leftover i have no problem eating over and over bc it tasted better ever time its reheated

      2 Replies
      1. re: shoelace

        I am so totally going to try this!

        1. re: AdinaA

          its insane- and if you dont mind the chopping, pretty easy-

          they have preserved lemons at fairway- but doing them on your own is soooo much cheaper, ridiculously easy, and the taste is so much better (ive been using preserved lemons in sliced turkey sandwiches since i started making my own bc they provide the umami-ish depth thats insane)

          i take an old pickle jar- (im not using #s bc obviously it depends on the size of the jar)
          i take lemons, cut off both ends and wash them then cut them in half, then i cut an x through each half, but not all the way through, so each half is quartered almost, i put a teaspoon of kosher salt in to each half lemon and then drop it in to the jar, i keep doing that with lemons until i cant fit any more lemons, you want them really squished in, so that all the juice has come out of the halves, and covered the lemons- if you need to add juice (they must be fully covered) use fresh lemon juice- DO NOT USE REALEMON- idk why, but it creates a totally different taste in the finished product

          i store it on my kitchen counter, but wherever is fine, just out of the sun and somewhere where youll remember to shake it up a little every 3-4 days

          they need at least 3-4 weeks, i usually dont use any until its been at least a month, you want them to be smooshy when you use them- and i use EVERYTHING except the pits- the lemon flesh, the skin

      2. This is looking like Friday night dinner! I'm assuming it can be scaled down for 2 people? (And I have all the ingredients but the lamb)

        What's the avg price of lamb shanks? I've only really seen them at pomegranate and they're about $10/pc (and they're small!)

        12 Replies
        1. re: cheesecake17

          The only thing I would be careful with in scaling this up or down is the size of the braising pan. You want the lamb to simmer in the sauce, the lamb should more or less fill the pot.

          1. re: AdinaA

            Hmm..ok will prob use a Dutch oven and just watch out that the sauce doesn't burn. How are the leftovers? If the leftovers are good, I'll make double.

            1. re: cheesecake17

              Skimpy (people took seconds) but delish

              1. re: AdinaA

                As long as they were good, that's perfect.

                When it comes to Shabbat cooking, my eyes are way bigger than our stomachs. There's only so much 2 adult & a kiddo can eat.

                Re- bacon.
                Did you fry it up Friday morning?

                1. re: cheesecake17

                  No. I made it Wednesday, I think. In the oven. It keeps really well.

                    1. re: cheesecake17

                      Who are you buying your bacon from? Is it lamb belly bacon?

                      1. re: AdinaA

                        I bought the jacks Facon. I was in a rush (have a feeling school will close early) and that's all I could find. Where do you buy the lamb belly bacon?

                        1. re: cheesecake17

                          Lamb gribenes: when you throw the loose lamb fat into the pan to render, it will as the fat renders out you will be left with a sort of lamb gribenes. Crispy, browned, shriveled, bits of lamb fat. You won't have a lot, but lift them onto a paper towel and eat (save one to share with someone you love) You'll see what I mean about the way lamb fat gets crunchy-crisp.

                          There's an outfit in Baltimore called Kosher Lamb Bacon. It's good. But the only retail outlet at the moment appears to be in Baltimore. With any luck, they'll expand to have more retail outlets. Lamb belly gets crisp in a way that beef bacon does not.

                          That said, I have had good success with crumbling beef bacon on salads. It's delicious. Just not quite as delicious as lamb bacon.

                          1. re: AdinaA

                            Now this is something I need to get involved with. Where would I procure lamb fat? And is there something specific I should be asking for?

                            1. re: cheesecake17

                              I get it only by trimming it from lamb. Not sure that anyone sells it, though someone may. I do go out of my way now to procure lamb belly bacon from Baltimore.

        2. What you may want to try to do is, instead of adding spices to liquid, to first add the spices to the fat, let cook for 30 seconds and then remove or add onions/garlic and then liquid so that the spices don't burn.

          Keep in mind that pepper/chili will lose its 'pop' if you do this so you may want to add that later.

          1 Reply
          1. re: arifree

            Thanks. I do that with a lot of dishes, but I hadn't known why I was doing it.

          2. This sounds amazing! Do you think it would work with beef instead, if I can't get lamb?
            And yes - I totally agree with you about the Shabbos-modified recipes. I wish someone would publish a cookbook that is specifically designated for Friday night (dishes that can be held warm without damage) and Shabbos day (room temp dishes or long-term cooking friendly). Kosher cookbook publishers must know that the vast majority of our "special occasion" cooking is done for Shabbos or Yom Tov, so publishing recipes that call for "serving immediately" is just not catering to our actual needs.

            4 Replies
            1. re: DevorahL

              I'm sure it would work with beef. Browning meat, onions and vegetables and adding wine also adds flavor to chicken and vegan tagine recipes.

              1. re: DevorahL

                I agree about needing to know which recipes will work well for the needs of the two (very different) shabbos meals.

                When the Kosher Palette and the Kosher by Design books originally came out, I was surprised they did so well, because they seemed full of milchig recipes and ones that called for serving immediately . . . neither very useful for most people's idea of a typical shabbos meal. I used to joke that I didn't know where all the Tuesday night dinner parties were taking place, but that I certainly wasn't being invited to any.

                1. re: queenscook

                  I wonder if they just looked all over for recipes and picked those that happened to be kosher.

                  1. re: queenscook

                    It's true. Kosher cookbooks are filled with recipes - some of them marked Shabbat - that won't hold well on Friday evening, and have little beyond cholent for Saturday lunch.