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!
This has been one of the snowiest winters in my recent memory. Not only does it feel like it’s snowing endlessly, every snowstorm seems to dump another foot of snow on us. The banks on either side of our driveway and our front yard are four to six feet high. There’s really nowhere left for more snow.
During last weekend’s snow storm, I made this week’s recipe for French Fridays with Dorie: Chicken Couscous. This warm and hearty stew was the perfect fare for a snowy blowy day. First, chicken thighs are sautéed with a fragrant spice mix made from turmeric, saffron, cinnamon, ginger, and cumin. The turmeric and saffron turns everything a lovely yellow hue. Then a slew of vegetables and broth are added to the pot to simmer until everything is tender. Chick peas are the finishing touch. The stew is served over couscous, which is cooked in the lovely-colored broth from the chicken pot.
The recipe is meant to serve four, but we typically eat small portions of meat. That means eight pieces of chicken translate to eight servings at my house. To ensure that every bowl made a meal, I doubled the vegetables and the chick peas. The balance was perfect for us. Also, I omitted the zucchini because someone doesn’t like that particular vegetable. I had the best intentions of making some quick harissa and adding some raisins to my bowl, but we enjoyed the chicken, veggies, and broth ladled over couscous with no further adornments.
Next time I make this, I will skin, bone, and chop the chicken into chunks. Because the chicken was braised, the skin was not crispy and so wouldn’t be missed in my book. Also, I really disliked having to cut the chicken off the bone as I ate. It would have been more appealing be able to eat this with just a fork (or a spoon) and not have to deal with the knife. Maybe that’s because I served the chicken couscous in wide shallow bowls, and I feel like knifes and bowls aren’t naturally compatible.
Last weekend, before the snowstorm, we saw The Second Girl at the Huntington Theatre and finally checked out Bar Boulud, which opened at the Mandarin Oriental hotel here in Boston last fall. This was our third attempt to go. We had to cancel our reservations the last two times we planned to go. Third time’s the charm, and it was well worth the wait. I adore bistro food. We started with a charcuterie platter with the chef’s choice of pâtés, sliced meats, and pickles. I think I’m glad I didn’t know exactly what was on it, because I tasted head cheese for the first time. It was delicious, though I doubt I would have willingly tried it if it had been clearly identified. It was our favorite item on the platter, so we asked what it was when we finished it off. Then we shared a salade Lyonnaise with sautéed chicken livers along with the traditional lardons and egg on top. We finished with cassoulet. Oh, and dessert. Howard had chocolate ice cream, of course, and I had a tarte Basque, garnished with brandied cherries. Oh la la!
As I write this, we’re waiting for yet another storm tomorrow. We were supposed to go to Maine, but now I’m looking forward to a weekend homebound with my sweetheart. I’ve laid in supplies for cooking a romantic Valentine’s Day dinner followed by other hearty fare for the rest of the weekend.
Wishing you a Happy Valentine’s Day!