Anyone who has followed my blog for a while is aware of some of the challenges I face with certain ingredient combinations. To keep the peace, my husband has several food rules that I try to follow. “No fruit or dried fruit in a savory dish” is one of them. When I looked over this week’s recipe for Cook the Book Fridays, Lamb Shank Tagine, I couldn’t come up with a decent substitution for the apricots and raisins featured in the sauce. Then I remembered that Howard has eaten a lamb stew that my sister-in-law made, one that had dried apricots. He didn’t complain (which he would have), so I thought it was worth taking the chance.
The tagine takes a long time to cook, but most of that time is hands off. The lamb needs to marinate overnight in a fragrant spice paste, so some advanced planning is necessary. First, the marinated lamb shanks are browned, then the aromatics (onions, and garlic and bay leaf) are cooked. A pinch of saffron adds color and flavor to the pot. Finally, some liquid for braising: water, diced tomatoes, and bit of honey. After an hour in the oven, the lamb is flipped over, and half of the dry fruit added to the pot. It cooks for another hour. Then the remaining dried fruit is added, and the uncovered pot continues to cook, allowing the sauce to thicken up.
During the long cook time, I left the house a few times. On returning, the aroma was wonderful.
When the tagine was ready, the lamb was tender and falling off the bone. I served the tagine with the recommended Lemon-pistachio couscous.
For the couscous, I used oil-cured olives instead of the dried fruit. This side dish comes together easily by stirring cooked Israeli couscous into an array of wonderfully flavorful Mediterranean ingredients: preserved lemon, pistachios, the previously mentioned olives, parsley, butter, and a touch of cinnamon. I didn’t properly account for my olive substitution, so it was a little on the salty side, but delicious nonetheless.
As for the tagine, I loved the tender meat, but found the fruit and honey sweetened the sauce too much. The sauce didn’t thicken that much, and unfortunately (and surprisingly) the saffron flavor didn’t come through. I plan to tweak this one, keeping some of the fruit but looking at other recipes get ideas for more savory additions to the sauce.
What did Howard think? His empty bowl says it all.
You can find the tagine recipe on page 199 of David Lebovitz’s My Paris Kitchen. The couscous recipe is on page 237 of the same book. You can also see what my Cook the Book Fridays friends thought of this recipe by following their links here.
After the third Nor’easter in three weeks, here’s the snow pile in one of town’s parking lots. Impressive!
2017 was definitely my “Year of Bread”. The sourdough starter I established in the summer of 2016 was thriving. I shared the starter with several friends and made spinoff starters in whole wheat and rye. In 2017, bread baking became part of my weekly routine.
It looks like 2018 will continue the trend. Sourdough makes regular appearances, but, for variety, I’ve been making some breads with commercial dry yeast too. I made a 6-strand braided challah with King Arthur Flour’s January Bakealong. I also tried my hand at Anadama bread after having it at our newest favorite breakfast place. Add the Chocolate and Dried Cherry Fougasse for Cook the Book Fridays to the list.
With the sourdough loaves, I need to plan ahead to leave time for feeding the starter, plus I almost exclusively make no-knead loaves which require a LONG rise time. No instant gratification on that track. In comparison, the fougasse took no time at all.
The basic dough was simple, as you might expect: flour, yeast, water, olive oil, and a little sugar. It’s the mix-ins, a blend of chocolate, dried cherries, toasted hazelnuts, and some orange zest, that make this interesting.
With fruit in the mix, I knew Howard wouldn’t be sampling, so I halved the recipe and made just one loaf. I was a little concerned that there wasn’t quite enough dough in the stand mixer to knead. It took a while, but eventually the dough hook brought it all together.
After the initial rise, the dough is shaped into an oval and sliced to resemble a leaf before rising again.
It stretches out when you transfer to the pan. Just before baking, the loaf is brushed with olive oil and sprinkled with flaky salt.
I had to bake my loaf about twice as long as instructed before it lost its raw look and started to brown.
Tearing off segments, this bread made a wonderful snack. I enjoyed the flavors and can imagine other combinations of fruits and nuts that would be equally delicious. Or maybe just chocolate and nuts so that Howard could enjoy it.
I’ll admit that I was ambivalent going into this recipe, but it surprised me. I’m glad I made it after all.
Happy March! It sure has come in like a lion.