here's where @marycray talks about food in fits & starts

My sister had a baby one week ago! I’m excited for her, and am helping her and her  husband as much as I can through cooking. My goal is to deliver a couple of meals a week.

Today I made lamb tagine in a slow cooker, a.k.a. crock pot. I’ve never used a crock pot until this morning (it’s actually my sister’s crock pot, but it’s an absolute must-have!). The recipe I improvised from was from the NYTimes. When I improvise, it’s usually because I’m out of something, or I prefer a certain technique than what the recipe calls for. Among many things, the original recipe called for lamb shoulder, boneless lamb stew meat, apricots and cumin. I ran into a couple of issues starting at the butcher’s: no bone-in lamb shoulder, and only 1 pound of lamb stew meat. Then, I couldn’t find dried apricots. Once I actually started cooking I realized I was out of cumin. So here is how I changed the recipe.

  • 3-1/2 pounds of lamb should blades
  • 1 pound of boneless lamb stew meat, in 2-inch chunks
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon sweet paprika
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 2 large Spanish onions (yellow onions), peeled and quartered
  • 2 cinnamon sticks, each 2 inches long
  • Large pinch crumbled saffron
  • 1 cups fig compote/preserves
  • 1 cup cracked green olives, pitted and sliced if desired
  • 2 to 4 tablespoons butter
  • 1/3 cup sliced almonds
  • Cooked couscous (I use Near East couscous), for serving
  • (optional) Chopped parsley or cilantro, for garnish.

1. Trim excess fat off lamb. Pat meat dry. Heat cast-iron pot medium-high. Brown meat on both sides (about 2-3 minutes each side). Remove from heat, then rub spices on the seared meat: garlic, salt, black pepper, paprika, ginger and coriander) and all over meat.

2. Place onions, cinnamon sticks and olives in  crock pot. Add fig compote/preserves to meat, and place atop the onions and olives.

3. Let cook for 4-1/2 hours in crock pot.

5. Tagine can be prepared 4 days ahead; chill, then remove fat and reheat before serving.

6. In a small skillet, melt butter. Add almonds and cook until well browned and toasted, about 2 minutes. Put couscous in a serving bowl and top with almonds and butter. Pile tagine in center of couscous and garnish with parsley or cilantro.

Yield: 6 servings.
The lamb was tender and falls of the bone. It’s really good. Next time, I will be sure to add cumin, and maybe add some cayenne pepper for a little heat. But since, my sis is nursing, I’m trying to avoid cooking spicy food in the short-term.

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