You don’t mind if I stick some candles in this tagine, right? Today’s my birthday – the big 28!
There’s lots going on to celebrate: these, dinner out, and this cake from the weekend. But now that I’m in my late twenties (sheeeesh), I figured I should be practical about this whole birthday thing. Instead of a cake or cupcakes or even pancakes, I’m posting about a make-ahead stew that feeds a crowd, keeps your kitchen pretty damn neat, and tastes and smells fantastic. If you’re the type who like to cook so much that she ends up hosting her own birthday party (know anyone like that??), then you’ll want to put this one on the list.
A couple years ago, beef stew graced my birthday menu – so the late twenties haven’t done a number on my tastebuds just yet. What’s great and different and notable about this tagine, made with a big hunk of not-too-pricey American lamb shoulder from a co-op in the Pacific Northwest, is that you don’t have to brown the meat, which saves time and angst and splatters and scents–all elements you can do without when you’re about to host a dozen friends for dinner. Moroccan tagines get their flavor from spices and slow cooking. They act, in other words, like they were reared in a small Brooklyn kitchen.
Alex and I visited Morocco a couple years ago, and after we fell in love with tagines there you might think I’d have cooked them nonstop. But I haven’t – til now. So there’s one birthday wish: to delve into my stock of inspiration and cook adventurously. I think I just told you about my wishes for the year, so I’ll spare you the sweet nothings I’ll whisper to my birthday candles later today.
So happy birthday to me! Having this space with all you guys here is one of the best gifts I could think to ask for. Thank you!
Lamb Tagine with Carrots and Fennel
Makes about 10 servings
4 pounds lamb shoulder, trimmed of large chunks of fat and cut into 3-inch pieces
1 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
2 pinches saffron
1 onion, grated
6 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 cinnamon stick
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
2 teaspoons ginger
1/2 cup olive oil
1 pound carrots, peeled and cut into sticks
2 large fennel bulbs, trimmed and cut into 8 wedges each
1/3 cup black olives, pitted and haved
juice of 1 lemon
In a 7-quart heavy Dutch oven, toss the meat with the paprika, smoked paprika, saffron (grind it between your fingers before adding), grated onion, garlic, pepper, cinnamon stick, cumin, turmeric, ginger, olive oil, and 1 teaspoon salt. If you have time, cover the pot and let it sit in the fridge for about an hour to let the flavors soak in. If you don’t, no worries – plenty of time for flavor building later.
Pour enough water over the meat to just cover it – you’ll need about 3 cups. Set over medium-high heat and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and cover, letting the stew simmer for 2 hours. Check often to stir and make sure there’s enough water to cover the meat – add more if needed. The meat should be very tender, so that it breaks apart easily with a fork.
If you’re planning to make the stew ahead of time (which is best), you can make it up to this point. Cool to room temperature, then refrigerate overnight. Skim fat from the top and return to the stove.
Whether or not you waited overnight, add the carrots and fennel when the meat is tender, plus a little more water if necessary to cover. Taste for salt and add in more by the 1/4 teaspoon as needed. Cook for 20 minutes, until the veggies are soft. Add the olives and the lemon juice and cook for 10 more minutes. Taste again for salt.
Serve over freshly cooked cous cous or quinoa.