Gameday in the Underworld | Lamb Tagine

I knew it was game day, I just didn’t make the traditional food for it.  This is a novel spread for fall football entertaining because (well, it features lamb, but also!) each of these can be served either hot or room temperature.  If it’s not your thing, give these dishes a try on a fall weekend when your favorite team has a bye.

First, tagine of lamb (we used lovely little lamb chops).  This is a simplified version of a Claudia Roden recipe from Arabesque.  I prefer to have my lamb a bit more on the well-done side, so braises suit me well.  To braise, I first seared the chops with a garlic clove and a couple of shallots in a tagine, then added some of the lamb stock we made last weekend and then a handful of almonds (roughly chopped) and a handful of dates.  Let it cook for about an hour and a half to two hours over really low heat.  This method gave it a really lovely sauce and the chops were surprisingly tender for such a short braise.

Side dishes included roasted eggplant, tomato and bell peppers (just used a bit of olive oil and salt and pepper and a 400˚ oven for about 25 to 30 minutes).  Afterwards, give it a mix with a few dashes of cumin and some ground sumac if you’ve got it.

Make a quick sauce by caramelizing a whole onion, sliced in thin rings, in a bit of vegetable oil.  Once the onions are caramelized, add a drop or two of honey, some salt and pepper and use either an immersion blender or a food processor.  Puree until smooth.  This thick sauce is great with the lamb, but it could be nice with any number of other meats, some sage-y roasted pork perhaps.

Then I made couscous.  I think it’s kind of funny how much I enjoy making this.  It’s like how your mom has a potato salad recipe memorized and the only way you can learn is by watching her. “Oh honey, I don’t know, keep adding the mayonaise until it looks right.”  Great, thanks, Mom.  (Don’t take that personally, Demeter.)  Here’s an attempt to get a recipe down for this fast side that can be served warm, room temperature or cold.

Warm or Cold Couscous

3 cups couscous (not the Israeli, we used Rice Select tricolor)

3 cups liquid (water is fine, chicken stock is nicer)

½ c olive oil

1 orange (zest and juice)

3 T cumin

1/8 t of rose water, if you have it

¾ c currants or raisins (golden or plain jane)

4 green onions, thinly sliced

1 c. grape or cherry tomatoes, halved or quartered or larger tomato cubed

½ c. pine nuts( toasted is nice, but not 100% necessary)

Handful of fresh parsley and mint, finely chopped

Salt and pepper to taste

Bring the three cups of liquid to a boil, then whisk in the couscous.  Remove from heat and cover.

In a deep bowl, whisk together olive oil through rose water, a generous couple of pinches of salt and 20 twists of fresh ground pepper.  Add in the raisins through mint and parsley and whisk again.  After ten minutes or so, remove the lid from the couscous and using a fork, fluff the couscous and then add into the deep bowl with the dressing.  Mix well.

At this point you may need to add a bit more olive oil or cumin or salt or pepper.  PK tip:  This is where taste, remember, season, taste again comes into practice (I think I originally read this in Ruhlman’s Soul of a Chef).  You’ll do this a lot as you begin to cook more without a net, so to speak.

Serve with a 2004 Grenache from Orvene Winery.  It’s a stunning, affordable pairing available from our friends at Vino 100 down in the Short North.

An unusual menu for a game calls for an unusual playlist.  Today’s included old Cocteau Twins and Bjork’s Hyperballad.

PK thanks Cronus for today’s photography.

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