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!