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lamb and dried apricot tagine {ffwd}

Lamb Tagine

It’s hard to believe that French Fridays with Dorie has less than two dozen recipes left to complete cooking all the way through Dorie Greenspan’s book Around My French Table. Some of the ones left are amongst the less appealing, but there are still a smattering of recipes that are tempting, as with this week’s Lamb and Dried Apricot Tagine.

I’ve been a loyal participant, barely skipping any recipes. I do have a handful, about half a dozen, that I need to catch up on so that when we pass the finish line this spring, I will have a full sense of accomplishment about this project.

Lamb tagine is the perfect thing to make when the weather outside is frightful, and you don’t want to leave the house. When your kitchen smells like distant sunny places, you just know that dinner will be warm and hearty which makes it easier to get through a gray and dismal afternoon.

As with most stews, whether pedestrian or exotic, making tagine is simple, especially if you start with boneless meat. Alas, I can never find boneless lamb shoulder. Between the blades and joints, shoulders have many odd shaped bones and a ton of fat. So I just cranked up the podcast playlist on my phone and worked away with my knife. The perfect podcast was in my lineup: Dorie herself was being interviewed (along with Christine Muhlke, executive editor at Bon Appetit) on one of my new favorite shows, Radio Cherry Bombe with Julia Turshen from Heritage Radio.

That's a lot of onions!

That’s a lot of onions!

Once I’d transformed a pile of shoulder chops into a pile of boneless lamb chunks, the rest was smooth sailing. First, the lamb is browned. Then, the sauce gets started. Chopped onions and garlic are softened, canned tomatoes are added, then some stock. Finally, an array of Moroccan spices are stirred into the pot: a chile pepper, cracked coriander seeds, grated fresh ginger, a couple pinches of saffron, cumin, cinnamon, and some chopped cilantro.



Browned lamb and dried apricots are layered on top of the sauce before sealing up the pot and popping it in the oven. Now the hardest part is waiting for the fragrant pot to simmer and do its magic while the aroma from the oven makes you dream of a shopping expedition in a faraway souk.

And after...

And after…

And it is worth the wait. I served the tagine over couscous and sprinkled with more fresh cilantro and some toasted almonds. It was fantastic! I was able to continue my Moroccan fantasy over dinner.

Of course, anyone who follows my blog might anticipate how this went over with Howard, the man who won’t eat fruit in savory dishes. I was hopeful because his sister makes a delicious lamb stew with prunes which he has previously eaten and enjoyed. However, at our house, he picked the fruit out and added them to my plate. When I asked him how it liked it, he said, “Well, if you’d used carrots, I’d give it 5 stars, but with apricots, it only gets a 3.” That’s promising and a good idea for a future riff on this dish. Next time, I’ll try substituting some thickly sliced carrots for half of the apricots, adding a similar burst of orange color and, because I’m eating all the apricots, keep the proportion of fruit I consume the same. If serving to company, I would just add carrots and use the original amount of apricots.

To see what the other Doristas thought of the tagine, check out their links here. To make it yourself, the recipe can be found here or in the book.

Thanks to everyone for your delightful birthday wishes. With each thoughtful message received from my friends and family, my day was made that much more special. I enjoyed a multi-day celebration, filled with good company and delicious food. I LOVE birthdays, mine or anyone else’s!

(faux) osso buco à l’arman {ffwd}

Osso Buco

It’s hearty fare on the menu this week for French Fridays with Dorie. We’re down to the last few dozen recipes, so the lineup seems to be the less familiar ones, ones that are a bit off the beaten track. The selected recipe this week is for Osso Buco à l’Arman, Arman being the French artist who gave the recipe to Dorie.

Autumn has always been my favorite season. Even though from nature’s perspective, it represent a period of slowing down, preparing to sleep and restore over the winter, I think of fall as a new beginning, even more so than the New Year’s holiday coming up in January. At this time of year, I reacquaint myself with my love of hearty stews and soups, warming my household from within as the air outside gets crisper. This week’s recipe filled that bill perfectly.

Technically, osso buco is the cut of meat used in this recipe: veal shanks cross-cut into thick pieces. (In Italian, osso buco translates to “bone with a hole”, referencing the marrow bone that runs down the shank.) The modern version of the sauce will include tomatoes and carrots, and the osso buco is served sprinkled with gremolata (a combination of garlic, orange zest, and parsley).

I don’t eat veal, but my research indicated that lamb shanks cut this way would be a reasonable substitute. Before they became trendy, shanks were an inexpensive cut for the frugal cook, requiring the long cooking of braising to tenderize the meat, melt the fat, and soften the collagen in the tendons. Unfortunately, I was unable to locate any lamb shanks or, for that matter, beef. (I didn’t see any veal shanks either.) I opted for lamb shoulder chops, another cheaper cut of meat, but also sporting a “bone with a hole”.

The sauce was straightforward to prepare. First the orange zest gets boiled, then simmered. Then, onions, garlic, and herbs (I used all dried) are sautéed in olive oil before adding tomatoes, both canned and fresh, broth (I used beef), and some of the orange zest cooking water.

While the sauce simmers, the meat is browned. After nestling the lamb in the tomato sauce and adding several strips of the orange zest and the remaining orange zest cooking water, the pot is topped off with sliced carrots before closing the lid and popping the Dutch oven in the oven. Two hours later, dinner was ready.

I wasn’t sure about the purpose of several steps in the recipe. Maybe you can help me out:

  1. Why do we boil, then simmer, the orange zest? Does it do something to the orange zest, or is it to create the orange-flavored water used for the braise?
  2. Why canned AND fresh tomatoes? It seemed like the major contribution of the sliced fresh tomatoes was its skin (which wasn’t all that appealing).
  3. What does the layer of wax paper on top of the stew do?

Osso buco is traditionally served with risotto. Howard helped out and followed my directions for a saffron risotto cooked (in under 10 minutes) in the pressure cooker. (If you’ve never tried making risotto this way, you must. Check out my earlier post on this method.)

Osso Buco with Risotto

This stew was the perfect thing to have bubbling in the oven on a fall Sunday afternoon. The house smelled amazing, and the taste did not disappoint. I found the lamb to work well. The meat was melting off the bone, and the flavors of the sauce complemented lamb just fine. I liked the fresh taste of the gremolata on top of the stew. (Howard, as you might expect, opted to skip that step. The orange rind in the dish was more than enough fruit in his savory meal.)

Another company-worthy recipe that I will make again on a cold winter’s night! To see what the other Doristas thought, check out their links here. If you want to make it yourself, you can find the recipe on-line here, or in Dorie Greenspan’s book Around My French Table.

Happy French Friday and Happy Halloween!