Fall has arrived, here in Los Angeles, Some days are downright hot and others have a wonderful cool breeze. The sky is crystal clear blue and as soon as the late afternoon shadows start to stretch a chill comes creeping up. Before you know it the crisp evening has arrived. Perfect weather to stimulate the appetite and our craving for more complicated food.
A few weeks ago my friend Dalia and I conspired to get the families together for a Shabbat dinner. I volunteered to cook and prepare everything as long as Dalia would be bring a new version of Persian rice that I have not tried. The menu was wonderful for any party, holiday, celebration and it could be paired back to just Tagine and salad for a small family dinner. Just a note I do not have a functional tagine so I use my large heavy enamel Dutch ovens.
The Main course: Lamb Tagine, Persian Rice with fried onions, currents and lentils, green beans, oven roasted cauliflower with olive oil and sea salt.
The dessert was: Super sized French Macaron with coconut sorbet and fresh raspberries
We consumed many bottles of wine along with Aqua Panna and San Pellegrino water and the conversation lasted until quite late.
Yield: 8 to 14 servings
4 tablespoons sunflower oil
12 lamb shoulder chops with the long bone (not the one with round bones)
Sea Salt, Fresh ground pepper
3 large yellow onions, peeled, diced small
6 fat cloves of garlic (no green showing)
2 cups fresh parsley, washed, dried, chopped medium
2 fourteen ounce cans of chopped tomatoes in puree
2 to 4 fourteen ounce cans of water
1 juicy lemon, cut in half
1 cup Tamarhindi or tamarind sauce
2 tablespoon turmeric
4 teaspoons Baharat spice mix (a Turkish spice blend)
2 cups dried apricots
2 cups pitted prunes or dried plumbs
Heat two very large heavy Dutch ovens (like le Crusset) on medium high heat. Add two tablespoons of oil to each pan and sear 6 chops in each. Place chops in bottom of pan and wait 2 minutes before you flip them. Try to develop a dark gold crust before turning. Season lamb with salt and ground pepper.
Turn down heat to medium, remove lamb from pan and set on a plate. Lamb does not have to be cooked through, it needs the crust at this point. Add onions to each pan, cook stirring up any browned bits remaining from lamb until they are translucent, add garlic, sauté for a moment longer, then add the parsley.
Turn the heat down to low. Next, add, one can of chopped tomatoes to each pan, then juice of half of a lemon to each pan, and Tamarhindi. Now add back the seared chops and juice that may have collected on the plate. Add in one can of water (this rinses out any remaining tomato in can and saves another measuring cup to wash). Push chops down in the sauce.
Season sauce with turmeric and Baharat, add in apricots and pitted dried plumbs (formerly prunes). Cover tagine with a tight fitting lid so no steam escapes and Leave tagine on low flame to simmer for 2 and 1/2 to 3 hours. Check every once in a while and add the last can of water as needed to prevent sticking while still maintaining a thick sauce. Serve with rice.
Note: all ingredients are designed to be split between two Dutch ovens. Make only one half if there are fewer people or make it all and it freezes great.