March first: in like a lamb (tagine)
it’s that time again! on the first of every month, i’m doing (and writing about) something that’s a first for me. this month, in honor of the old saying about March weather, In like a lion, out like a lamb (and vice versa), i decided to cook some lamb, which (kind of surprisingly) i’ve never done before. so Sunday supper tonight was this Moroccan Lamb Tagine. or something like it. in typical fashion, i took an inspirational recipe and completely effed it up made it my own. i obvs don’t know how else it would have tasted if i’d done it by the book, but as far as i’m concerned, the outcome was pretty amazing. warm, soft and rich with a little kick to it — perfect for this cold, dreary night. i haven’t had Moroccan in a long time, but this is as good as i remember it. here’s how everything went down.
the inspiration 4 pounds fat-trimmed boned lamb shoulder or other cut suitable for stewing, rinsed and cut into 1½ -inch chunks 2 onions (8 oz. each), peeled and thinly sliced 4 cloves garlic, peeled and minced 1 tablespoon each paprika and ground cumin 1 teaspoon each ground turmeric, ground cinnamon, and minced fresh ginger ½ teaspoon cayenne ⅛ teaspoon ground cardamom 2½ cups fat-skimmed chicken broth 1 can (14½ oz.) diced tomatoes 2 tablespoons tomato paste Salt and fresh-ground pepper
⅓ cup pitted kalamata olives
⅓ cup chopped fresh cilantro
1. Brown lamb. Discard all but 2 tablespoons fat from the pan.2. Add onions and garlic to pan; stir often over medium heat until onions begin to get limp, 3 to 5 minutes. Add paprika, cumin, turmeric, cinnamon, ginger, cayenne, and cardamom; stir until very fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add broth, tomatoes (including juices), and tomato paste. Bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer, stirring occasionally, until lamb is tender when pierced, about 1 hour. Skim off and discard any fat. Add salt and pepper to taste.
3. On dinner plates or a large rimmed platter, mound couscous and form a well in the center. With a slotted spoon, transfer lamb and vegetables to well. Measure pan juices; if less than 3 cups, add water to make that amount, return to pan, and bring to a boil over high heat. Add salt to taste. Pour juices into a bowl and pass to add to taste. Scatter olives and cilantro over lamb; garnish as desired (see notes).
i actually used these measurements for everything except the paprika, which i didn’t realize i didn’t have enough of until i was in the middle of it. i subbed white pepper for about 2 teaspoons of it. i also added a can of garbanzo beans and a bag of frozen diced sweet potatoes. just stuff i had on hand that i thought would go well. i didn’t use the olives, cilantro or other garnishes because i just wasn’t feeling that fancy. and nobody missed them.
never having bought lamb before, i had absolutely no idea what i was doing. i thought i was going to have to make a special trip to Whole Foods, but was pleasantly surprised to find a few packages of lamb at Publix during my regular shop yesterday. shoulder (check) and neck (wth? but yes, really), which said specifically that it was for stewing. that was in chunks already, so i got 2 packs of that and one of the shoulder. what i didn’t realize was that all of it had bones. lambs apparently are bony little fuckers. like there was no way to even cut the meat off of all these bones to get it into bite-sized chunks. in the end, it was fine because after almost 6 hours in the slow cooker, the meat literally fell off the bones anyway (no joke, i was picking clean bones out of the stew as i spooned it onto the couscous), but it just made the presentation a little different than you’d expect and a little more knife action necessary for the actual eating.
also, if you’ve been paying attention, you gathered that i cooked this in my slow cooker instead of on the stove. i was supposed to be at work this afternoon, so the plan was to let all this simmer while i was working. thank goodness that got cancelled, but i stuck with the plan and was able to enjoy the exotic scents emanating from my slow cooker. i rarely cook with turmeric and don’t think i’ve ever used cardamom. i just love the smell of these two spices mixed with the cinnamon and loved smelling this simmer all afternoon. after browning the lamb in some olive oil, i threw it and all the other ingredients into the pot, did a quick mix and set it for 4½ hours on low, then did an hour on high just to be sure it was really tender and melty.
and finally, as one of the reviews mentions, i also added about 3 tablespoons of flour toward the end to thicken up.
i definitely recommend this one and will for sure be trying it again (with some boneless cuts) during cold weather — which i hope means next fall. and for the record, i will not be posting a lion recipe on the 31st. have a great month full of new experiences, everyone!