I found this recipe in the latest Bon Appétit and knew immediately that we had to make it. As the weather turns cooler here in the Northeast, braises like this tagine come screaming back into fashion. With the exception of freshly baked bread, there is nothing to compete with a delicious braise in the way it fills a home with hearty aromas and warmth. As it had been some time since we've had lamb around here, this dish was a perfect way to hop back into cool weather cuisine.
Until making this dish I had never cooked with Ras el Hanout before, but having watched Richard Blais, the winner of last season's "Top Chef All Stars" use it in almost every dish he created, I added it to my list of culinary "to-try's". I recently acquired a bottle of the spice mix from Penzey's, and put it to very good use here.
This recipe calls for using lamb shoulder, but we used a boned leg because that's all we could find. Even though the shoulder is a fattier cut, the meat in our tagine remained deliciously moist. Boning a leg of lamb is a bit of a chore, but if you can get one already boned, and have a kid like Boris that loves wielding a blade (safely, of course), then cleaning and cubing the lamb is a great knife-skill project. Make sure you take your time with this step, as removing all the silver-skin and fatty deposits will pay big benefits in the final dish.
How was the final dish, you ask? Fabulous! Richly spiced, but not "spicy", this dish was a hit with all in our gang, and made for gorgeous left-overs for a few day's worth of lunches. I now know why Blais was all crazy for the Ras el Hanout, this stuff is beautiful. The apricots nicely complement the sweetness of the spice mix, and the chickpeas offer a fine textural counterpoint to the "melt in your mouth", soft lamb. This is a dish we will go back to again and again.
Cheers – Steve
Lamb Tagine with Chickpeas and Apricots
- 3/4 cup dried chickpeas
- 5 garlic cloves (2 whole, 3 chopped)
- 1 large cinnamon stick, broken in half
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 3 pounds 1" cubes lamb shoulder
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1 large onion, diced
- 5 teaspoons Ras-el-Hanout spice blend
- 1 tablespoon chopped peeled ginger
- 1 cup canned diced tomatoes with juice
- s2 1/2 cups (or more) low-salt chicken stock
- 1/2 cup halved dried apricots
- Steamed couscous
- Chopped fresh cilantro
- Place chickpeas in a medium saucepan. Add water to cover by 2". Let soak overnight.
- Drain chickpeas; return to same saucepan. Add 2 whole garlic cloves and cinnamon stick. Add water to cover by 2". Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium and simmer until chickpeas are tender, about 45 minutes. Drain; set aside.
- Meanwhile, heat oil in a large heavy pot over medium-high heat. Season lamb with salt and pepper. Working in batches, brown lamb on all sides, about 4 minutes per batch. Transfer lamb to a medium bowl. Add onion to pot; reduce heat to medium, season with salt and pepper, and sauté until soft and beginning to turn golden, about 5 minutes. Add chopped garlic, Ras-el-Hanout , and ginger. Stir for 1 minute. Add tomatoes and lamb with any accumulated juices. Bring to a boil. Add 2 1/2 cups stock. Return to a boil, reduce heat to low, partially cover, and simmer, stirring occasionally, until lamb is tender, about 1 hour 30 minutes.
- Stir in chickpeas; simmer until heated through, about 10 minutes. Stir in apricots; simmer until heated through, about 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.
- Spoon couscous onto a large, shallow platter, forming a large well in center. Spoon tagine into center. Sprinkle cilantro over.