Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Lamb Tagine

My parents came over for dinner the other night, and my mom wanted to bring a red Portuguese wine (Duoro, for those of you curious) for us to try.  I had originally thought of making a linguini with clams or shrimp scampi, but changed course due to my mom's enthusiasm over the wine.  While I am not usually a stickler for matching just the right wine with whatever I'm eating, it is a general haphazard concern that becomes more pronounced when seafood is at stake.  A mismatched wine can be no big deal (at least to me), but a mismatched wine with seafood really throws a metallic off-taste to things that makes me very sad.

After a little research, I decided that lamb would be the way to go.  Somehow I settled on lamb tagine.  I used a combination of recipes I adapted from Food & Wine and NY Times.  In many of the lamb tagine recipes I saw, you brown the cubed lamb meat before braising it in a spicy fragrant mixture.  I am not a fan of browning small chunks of meat before a long cooking process--the spattering and turning of itty bitty pieces to get all 6 sides nicely browned makes me...very sad.  Apparently it's not hard to make me very sad. Anyway, what I liked about the Food & Wine recipe was that there was no browning, just a long marinade before moving onto the main event.  So yes, you do have to plan ahead to give the lamb enough time to marinate, but I was willing to make that sacrifice in order to avoid the fine spray of oil that would cover my cooktop if I had gone the browning route.

As for the NY Times recipe, there were some flavor components that I liked from that recipe, namely tomatoes and orange juice, that I decided to incorporate.


1/4 cup olive oil
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 two-inch strips of lemon peel (you want just the peel, leave the white pith)
1 1/2 tsp ground ginger
1 1/2 tsp sweet paprika
1 1/2 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp ground cumin
3/4 TBS kosher salt (less if using table salt)
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/4 tsp cayenne
1 cinnamon stick or 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
pinch of saffron threads (I happened to have this, but it is $$$, so consider this optional--you know, as if you were considering any of this as mandatory with penalty of death if not followed exactly)

2 1/2 pounds lamb stew meat (like shoulder or leg), cut into 1-inch chunks

1 medium onion, halved and sliced into 1/4 inch thick half-moons
juice from 1 orange
one 2-inch strip of orange peel (this could also go in the marinade--I was kind of making things up as I went along, which is what I'm sure you want to hear if you're going to use this recipe)
one 14 oz can of diced tomatoes
2 cups chicken broth
1 medium carrot, sliced 1/2 inch thick
1/4 to 1/3 cup green olives, sliced 1/4 inch thick
1/4 cup finely chopped parsley

Serves about 6

Combine the marinade ingredients in a large bowl.  There's a lot of yummy stuff in there.

Add lamb, stir to make sure the marinade is evenly distributed.  No one should be neglected.  Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 4 to 6 hours.

Add the onion, orange juice, orange peel, tomatoes, and chicken broth to a large pot (an enameled cast iron casserole works well--it should be at least 4 quarts).

Add the lamb and scrape in any residual marinade from the bowl.  Bring everything to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer, cover, and cook for 1 1/2 hours.  Add in carrots, and cook for another 30 to 45 minutes.

At some point I felt like my liquid wasn't reducing enough so I uncovered the pot and let it simmer for about 30 minutes, but it may turn out differently for you.  Anyway, at the end of cooking, stir in the olives and parsley.  Serve with couscous.

I loved this dish--the marinade packs a lot of flavor, and then you have the play of the vinegary olives against the sweetness of the carrots and orange.  I highly recommend for a weekend winter meal.



  1. This sounds like a meal worth the work! How did it go with the wine?

  2. I agree, browning the meat before braising just seems like an unneeded step. It would make me sad too.

  3. Mmm looks delicious. One day ill have to get brave and try cooking with lamb!

  4. that looks fabulous. no wonder mom was raving about it. are you going to talk about the delicious-looking cucumber salad I spy in the background?

  5. this looks pretty divine... might be my next weekend adventure.

  6. Somehow I never think of lamb when coming up with dinner plans... sounds delicious! Did it pair well with the wine?

  7. lauren and megan: yes, it did go very well with the wine!

    jessica: yeah, down with browning!

    penga and ourwiredlives: you guys should try it!

    sashacleo: the salad was actually the low point of the meal. just cucumbers and red onions tossed with a vinaigrette. somehow i managed to do something to it so that it wasn't that appetizing.

  8. This sounds really, really good! I just wish my husband liked lamb, so I could make it.

    Maybe I'll save this recipe for the next time he goes out of town though, then there would be more for me!

  9. I always want to use saffron threads in dishes because they just look so pretty, but I've never actually bought them. They seem so fancy. :)

  10. I've never made lamb but always wanted to... it scares me for some reason. I like the seasoning you used for this recipe however and I think it may help me overcome my fear :)

  11. what a yummy dinner for your parents! you're a good child.

  12. Holy yes! Yes, yes, yes I will be making this.

  13. ohh...I want to make this. It looks amazing