Every once in a while Elizabeth uncovers a food gem in some online repository of recipes. When something lights up her attention, she gets so excited that we have to make it immediately. Whenever lamb is involved, I’m usually right there behind her.
This particular weekend, our obsession was Lamb Tagine with green olives from the New York Times magazine (online of course). The recipe comes from Chef Andrew Carmellini of Locanda Verde. If his menu is anything like this recipe, I may pay him a visit soon. This lovely stew gets most of its flavor from ras el hanout, an amazing spice mixture from North Africa (if anyone watched Top Chef season 4, Richard Blais used this stuff quite a bit). The recipe gives you instructions on how to make your own, although I have a tin from Balducci’s (that’s older than I’d like to admit…). Either way, this stuff is great in meaty dishes, rice, lentils and the like. At the risk of sounding like a trendy foodie, it’s fantastic stuff. The affair utilizes my beloved Dutch oven in place of the traditional tagine for the delightful low and slow. You add diced celery and carrot towards the end, not as an aromatic base but as ingredients in their own right. It reminds me of the lentil garnish of sauted vegetables that are prepared separately and again, added after the lentils are done. Awesome.
The article suggests that you serve over citrusy rice, flavored with lots of orange, although the Mrs. requested her typical couscous swap-out. I obliged and was happier for it. There’s something intrinsically symmetric about lamb and couscous, it’s almost Biblical. The final ordeal is covered with olives, toasted almonds and sesame seeds, giving it a distinctive flair different from Indian or Italian lamb braises.
Of course, here’s the link. Braises are always more fun when it’s cool outside (at least not sweltering). So get to it, friends! Cook on!