Monday, March 15, 2010

the definition of "intoxicating aroma"

With the sad, sad end of our 12-week pork CSA, it's time to give a little attention to some other delicious animals. This week we're eating some lamb. A lot of lamb. I made this sweet and savory Lamb and Apricot Tagine a few days ago, and J-Cat followed that up with sweet and spicy Lamb Ribs last night. You'll be seeing those soon, but for now, what is better with lamb than tangy sweet apricots?

Add the crunch of sliced almonds, the warmth of cinnamon and cumin, the ultimate aroma of coziness bubbling away in the oven. I don't have a true tagine pot, this recipe can easily be made in a good heavy dutch oven. Served simply over some plain cous cous, we were swooning on a chilly, rainy night.

Adapted from In the Kitchen and On the Road with Dorie

2 cups chicken broth
1/4 pound moist, plump dried Turkish apricots
6 tablespoons olive oil
1 3/4 pounds boneless lamb shoulder, fat removed, cut into 1-inch cubes
4 medium onions, peeled, trimmed and chopped
4 cloves of garlic, peeled, trimmed, and finely chopped
One 14 1/2 - ounce can diced tomatoes, drained
2 teaspoons ground coriander seed
2 pinches saffron
1/2 teaspoon finely grated fresh ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
About 1/4 cup chopped cilantro leaves
1/2 cup toasted sliced almonds
Salt and freshly ground pepper

Couscous or rice, for serving.

Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.

Bring chicken broth to a boil in a small pot, turn off heat, and add apricots to the pot and let them soak and plump while you prepare the rest of the tagine.

Put the base of a tagine, a heavy, high-sided skillet or a Dutch oven over medium-high heat and pour in 3 tablespoons of the oil. Pat the pieces of lamb dry between sheets of paper towels, then drop them into the hot oil - don't crowd the pan; work in batches, if necessary - and brown the meat on all sides, about 4 minutes. Lift the meat out of the pot and onto a plate with a slotted spoon. Season the lamb with salt and pepper. Pour out the fat that it's in the pan, but leave whatever bits may have stuck to the base.

Return the pan to the stove, adjust the heat to low and add 2 more tablespoons of the olive oil. When the oil is warm, add the onions and garlic and cook, stirring, for about 5 minutes, just to get them started on the road to softening. Add the tomatoes, season with salt and pepper, and continue to cook, stirring often, for another 10 minutes, adding a little more oil, if needed. Add the chicken bouillon/broth to the pot as well as the coriander, saffron - crush the saffron between your fingers as you sprinkle it into the pot - ginger, cumin, cinnamon and 2 tablespoons of the chopped cilantro leaves. Stir to mix and dissolve the spices, season with salt and pepper and spoon the meat over the base of vegetables. Top with the plumped apricots, seal the pan with aluminum foil and clap on the lid. Slide the pan into the oven.

Bake the tagine for 60 minutes before carefully lifting the lid and foil and scattering the almonds over the meat. Recover the pan and allow the tagine to bake for 15 minutes more. Serve over cous cous or rice, topped with chopped cilantro.

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