Saturday, October 1, 2011

Lamb Tagine with Chickpeas and Apricots

Featured Ingredients: Diced Tomatoes, Chickpeas AKA Garbanzo Beans.

AAH-ctober!  crisper air, lower humidity and the perfect backdrop for Uncanny Goodness.  I took quite a hiatus since summer.  Mostly busy because of my job which takes me away from home for at least 12 hours a day. 

Today was a great day, so I wanted to share it with you and celebrate with a long overdue blogpost. My family and I went to the Greenwich Audobon Society Hawk Watch event.  For those of you not from the Fairfield County CT area, Greenwich is an EXTREMELY affluent area, with some homes ranging in the 10's of millions!  Greenwich boasts residents like Ron Howard, Mel Gibson (at one time), Kathie Lee Gifford, among other less notable figures with similarly deep pockets.  Unfortunately, no celebrity bird enthusiasts were to be found.  I live in nice town, but not nearly of that caliber. My son and I believed there were bluebloods looking down on us saying "This is what shows up when you open up these events to the public."  With that kind of financial backing it was a great event.  They had live raptor bird shows featuring Falcons, Hawks, petting zoos, eco-friendly vendors and all sorts of activities.  

This Great Horned Owl was awesome.  You could walk pretty much right next to it, and it could care less that you were there.  Beautiful bird with talons that can exert 100 lbs of pressure.  I was amazed by how quiet there wings are when they flap them, so they can really take their prey by surprise.

Here I am with a burmese python:

Oh well, unlike most Greenwich residents, I had to rush home as it is a 45 minute drive and rely on my own personal chef self to make dinner. Recently I saw this dish in the October issue of Bon Appetit.  I adapted the recipe a little for 1.5 lbs of lamb and to save time.

Lamb Tagine with Chickpeas and Apricots (About 5 servings depending on how hungry you are)

1 19 oz. Can of Garbanzo Beans, drained and rinsed - I used about 1/2 a can
3 garlic cloves minced
1 large cinnamon stick
2 tbsp olive oil
1.5 lbs leg of lamb or leg, lamb shoulder or leg of lamb steaks cut into 1/2" cubes*  If you use steaks save the bones and braise them with the rest of the meat for additional flavor. Then scrape off any meat at the end remove bones.
1 medium onion diced
3 tsps Spice Mixture (recipe follows)
1/2 tbsp peeled chopped fresh ginger
1 cup canned diced tomato with juices
1 3/4 cup chicken stock
1/2 cup dried apricots quartered
1 tbsp chopped cilantro
1/2 tbsp cornstarch
Salt and Pepper as needed

Spice Mixture (This makes more than you need for the recipe, so save the extra)
3/4 tsp ground coriander
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
1 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp turmeric
Heat oil in a shallow dutch oven or "tagine" over medium high heat.  Season lamb with salt and pepper and brown lamb on all sides working in 2 batches about 4 minutes per batch.   Transfer lamb to a bowl.  This is the before picture:

Big Pile O Lamb

Add onion to pot, season with salt, reduce heat to medium and saute until softened and beginning to turn golden about 5 minutes. If the fond on the bottom of your pot starts to get too brown add stock now to deglaze.  Add minced garlic, spice mixture and ginger, stir one minute. Add tomatoes and return lamb to pot with any juices.  Bring to a boil reduce to a simmer. Add a cinnamon stick. Partially cover and simmer for 1 hour or until lamb is tender.

Bubble Bubble
Stir in chickpeas and apricots, simmer until heated through about 10 minutes.

Remove cinnamon stick.  Ladle out about 1/4 cup of cooking liquid from the pot and add about 1/2 tbsp cornstarch, to create a slurry.  "A pourable thickener".  Add back to pot and let simmer another 5 minutes until more thickened like a stew. Add cilantro and serve over couscous.

The mixture of warm spices like cinnamon and ginger mingle so well with savory tomatoes and sweet plump apricots.  Comfort food at its best.

Lamb Tagine with Chickpeas and Apricots

Couscous. (Follow the package directions, but simply:

1 cup chicken stock
1 cup couscous
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp butter
Tiny pinch of saffron

Heat stock, salt, butter and saffron to a boil.  Add couscous.  Cover and remove from heat for 4 to 5 minutes.  Fluff with fork.