Met the lovely Elizabeth from About New York and The House in Marrakesh for tea yesterday and had a nice stroll through the Green Market where we both agreed Spring is in the air but it's a little early here to plant herbs...she inspired me to make tagine for dinner...I ordered a gorgeous clay tagine as soon as I got back from Morocco so we could relive some of the delicious meals we had there. We are sentimental like that...for food.
I decided to make Lamb with Caramelized Shallots, Honey, Dates and Almonds...a romantic sounding meal for a chilly spring Monday, no? (OK, we didn't eat 'til 10 pm but who's counting?) Picked up some organic lamb shoulder and the wonderfully oily Marcona almonds from Whole Foods...I had to ask Elizabeth how the hell to use this gorgeous thing...she told me to brown the meat on the stovetop, add a little water and spices and then let it stew for a few hours. So that's what we did. There were a few more steps in the middle but the flavors were great...taking us back a few weeks back to Marrakesh...
with Caramelized Shallots, Honey, Dates & Almonds
3 lbs. lamb shoulder, trimmed of fat and cut into a few pieces
1 onion, grated or chopped very fine
1 tsp fresh grated ginger or ground
1 small cinnamon stick or 1/2 tsp ground
1/2 tsp saffron
black pepper and salt
1 pound shallots or cippolini onions (or both!)
1 tsp honey
10 dried dates
handful of almonds or better yet, marcona almonds
1 Tbs. chopped parsley and cilantro
This was kind of a synthesis of a few recipes...You don't need the fancy shmancy clay tagine to pull this off although it really does impart a fantastic earthy flavor to the dish--you can come over if you want to try it! Otherwise a nice sturdy casserole pot will work. This recipe is a little sweet for some people so I'd say if you don't want it too sweet either don't add the dates or don't add the honey!
-Heat 2 Tbs. of olive oil in a large casserole pot over medium-high heat and brown lamb. Add grated onions and stir until onions seem soft. Add ginger, cinnamon, saffron, a pinch of salt and a generous crack of fresh black pepper (which will counter the sweetness of the honey yet to be added). Add just enough water to barely cover. Stir and lower heat.
-Simmer for 1 and 1/2 hours over low heat, stirring and turning lamb to prevent sticking sometimes.
-Meanwhile, parboil shallots or cipollinis in boiling water for 5 minutes, then run under cold water and peel (they should peel easily!) Sauté slowly in olive oil in a shallow pan until caramelized, about 10-15 minutes. Your house will smell great.
-After the lamb has cooked for 1 and 1/2 hours, add caramelized onions and the honey and another crack of black pepper. You may have to add more water and keep stirring to prevent sticking.
-After 20 minutes add the dates!
Cook for another 10 minutes and garnish with parsley.
Serve with couscous or roasted potatoes and some good crusty bread and enjoy!