This week, i accepted Eddie’s challenge of creating a Moroccan feast. i’m fascinated by the cuisine of northern Africa with its mixture of desert sensibilities and Mediterranean spicy flair. i think it suits my personality well, i enjoy cooking it almost as much as i enjoy eating it.
Unfortunately, amongst the many cooking implements i do not have here in Korea, I do not have a traditional Tagine, the cooking vessel from which this delicious stew gets its name. but, wait for it, its a stew made of an indifferent cut of meat that is cooked for a long period in order to leave the meat tender and fully seasoned. hmmmm, what could i possibly use to slow cook a stew, Moroccan or otherwise?
so, yeah, another excuse for me to break out the crock pot. i’m almost starting to feel like i should have called this the 48 crock pot feasts. it is certainly my favorite implement for the here and now.
I’ve gotten rather cavalier with my approach to recipes these days. i found wonderful recipes for the tagine and for the couscous which i will link below but in the end, i used them as a basic blueprint and just went ahead and cooked the dishes. they ended up tasting quite nice although probably not as traditional as the could have been. i’m okay with that. for me, this has always been about exploration and finding the flavors and techniques that make a meal work for me. following a formula is great and all but in all honesty, there are few recipes that fit my palate right out of the crate. i almost invariably increase the garlic, omit one spice in favor of another, use a different cut of meat… all minor changes but ones that are designed to make the dishes exactly what i want to eat. so, here is how i rolled for this week. as a side note, i did make some pita to go alongside but lets just say, the first rule of greg’s baking is that we don’t talk about greg’s baking. the second rule of greg’s baking… blah blah blah. yeah, i need practice with breads.
first off, here is the original recipe from epicurious.com. Lamb Tagine with Tomatoes and Caramelized Sweet Onions i selected this recipe because it suited my intention of slow cooking and i was intrigued by the two methods of cooking the onions, one set stewed in the dish and another batch caramelized and served on top. it seems that here, most of my recipe modifications are a direct result of one ingredient or another that i just can’t get. there are things that we take for granted in our well equipped stateside stores, such as Vidalia onions. of course, here, i have none. so, i made do with yellow onions. a little sharper flavor of course but after caramelizing they still turned out nice and flavorful. As i mentioned above, i chose to make this dish in my crock pot. so, i started in the wee hours, around 8.5 hours before dinnertime to be exact. i am also stuck for cuts of lamb that are available here so instead of the cheaper stew meat that this dish called for, i took a whole leg of lamb and stripped it off the bone. i cut it into nice sized chunks, i guess about 1.5 inch cubes would be the best approximation. whatever size you would like to find in a bite of stew is what i would go with. i chopped up four onions and put these in the bottom of the crock pot. dropped in a couple of cinnamon sticks, liberal salt and pepper and then layered the lamb on top of the onions. repeat the salting and peppering, sprinkle with a bit of cinnamon powder and ginger. cook on high for about 5 hours, stirring often. at the 5 hour mark, add in about 6 chopped tomatoes, one julienne sliced orange bell pepper and two minced habaneros. yeah, i like a little hidden kick in my stews. cook for an additional 2 hours. then add in about 1/2 cup of chopped cilantro. cook for one more hour or until you are ready to eat, it should be tender and flavorful by then. about an hour before you serve, caramelize the remaining onions (i had three more onions for this stage) in a bit of olive oil in a large heavy pan. stir well until they begin to soften then reduce heat to medium, cover and let them cook down for about 45 minutes. spoon atop the tagine when you serve.
the couscous: this dish was meant to be served cooled but i wanted to serve it hot so thats what i did. its amazing the freedom that making a decision gives you. this was a three stage operation, each one utterly simple but when they all mixed together, the results were quite nice. here is the original recipe from which i didn’t deviate that much, just mixing the ingredients while they were still warm and i did swap cilantro for the parsley and omitted the mint, my personal taste, individual mileage may vary…Pearl Couscous with Olives and Roasted Tomatoes
it probably goes without saying that i was unable to obtain pearl couscous and used your normal everyday variety in its place. i imagine the texture was a little slighter that intended but it turned out nice regardless.
of course, nothing goes better with a spicy stew than a decent lager, we however settled for Corona, improved with slices of line and Tabasco. It provided a refreshing counterbalance and made me want to shoot pool afterward. all in all, served its purpose.
i’ve been daydreaming about future feasts. kinda odd i guess. i believe i may be making a miniature version of turkey day traditional fare for Thanksgiving, just to be cute. i’m still developing but have visions of roasted cornish hens stuffed with cornbread stuffing alongside miniature roasted potatoes, baby glazed baby carrots (all lovingly carved down with a paring knife to 1/4 scale) and a selection of miniature one serving pies for dessert.
i’m also contemplating the statement i want to make for feast 48, my last bit of cookery in this godforsaken place. it will have a meaning behind it, believe me.