Sunday, October 3, 2010

Lamb Tagine with Pears

And yet another recipe from one of my favorite cookbooks:  Chocolate and Zucchini.   A tagine is: 1) a spice-rich stew made with meats, veggies, and fruits and nuts, and 2) also the name of the dome-shaped dish in which these stews can be prepared.  But I used my Dutch oven and it worked great.  

You won't believe the delicious combinations of spices in this dish.  It was so fragrant and delicious; perfect for chilly fall days.   Open the kitchen window and listen to your favorite music as you cook; I promise it makes it taste better...  :)

Please note and factor into your preparation time:  the meat needs a minimum of two hours to simmer to bring it to the ultimate tenderness. 

Lamb Tagine with Pears
(Tagine D'Agneau Aux Poires)

Serves 4-6

1 tablespoon olive oil
2 1/2 pounds boneless lamb shoulder, cut in 1-inch cubes and patted dry with paper towels
Sea salt
1 pound yellow onions (about 3 medium)
A pinch of saffron threads
1/2 teaspoon whole cumin seeds
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
A good pinch ground chile powder
3/4 cup whole blanched almonds
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
4 ripe pears, about 2 pounds, peeled, cored and quartered--choose a variety that will retain its shape when cooked, such as Bosc, Winter Nellis, or Anjou

1.  Heat the olive oil over medium heat in a large heavy pot or Dutch oven.  Arrange half of the meat in a single layer over the bottom of the pot without crowding.   Cook for about 4 minutes on each side, until the meat starts to brown.  Season with salt, set aside on a plate, and repeat with the remaining pieces of meat.

2.  While the meat is browning, peel and slice the onions.  Peel and mince the garlic.  Once all the meat is browned and set aside, combine the onions, garlic, and 1 tablespoon water in the pot.  Cook over medium heat for 10 minutes, until softened, stirring regularly.  Add the meat, sprinkle with the spices (from saffron to ground chile powder), stir, and cook for 2 minutes, until fragrant.  Pour in hot water halfway up the meat (it's better to err on the side of too little can always add more if you need it; I added about 10 ounces of water to my Dutch oven, and I think I will do even less next time).  Bring stew to a simmer, cover, and lower the heat to medium-low.  Cook for 2 hours, stirring every once in a while, until the meat is very tender.

3.  When the stew is simmering and nearing the 2-hour mark, toast the almonds in a large dry skillet until golden and fragrant, and set aside.  In the same skillet, melt the butter over medium heat until it starts to sizzle.  Add the quartered pears and toss gently to coat.  Lower the heat to medium-low, cover, and cook for 12 minutes, until the pears are cooked through and slightly translucent.  Keep warm.

4.  Remove the lid from the pot, turn up the heat to medium-high, and cook uncovered for 10 to 15 minutes, stirring regularly, until the sauce is thick enough to cling to the meat.  Taste the sauce and adjust the seasoning.  Transfer the meat and sauce to a serving dish.  Surround with the pears, sprinkle with the toasted almonds, and serve with couscous, if desired. 

(The tagine, almonds, and pears can be prepared up to a day ahead.  Cover and refrigerate the stew and pears separately, and reheat over gentle heat before serving.  Keep the almonds in an airtight container at room temperature.)