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Lamb Tagine (a Miller family Christmas favorite)

Every year, for as long as I can remember, my parents have held an open house on Christmas Day. Neighbors, family, and childhood friends come over in large numbers and we put out a huge spread. After I started cooking professionally, I took over the cooking for this event. This recipe is one I’ve made for three years in a row now on Christmas Day. We almost always run out!

Lamb tagine is a celebratory dish, a crowd pleaser, and full of complex flavor. Tagine requires preparation time and a large number of ingredients, but it is not very complicated when it comes to technique. This stew should be cooked in a thick-bottomed dutch oven. It is best served with pita bread or couscous. If you find that it could use more liquid, you can add a can of diced or pureed tomatoes. This dish reheats very well.

Prep Time: 45 mins

Inactive Time: 12 hrs

Active Cook Time: 2 hrs and 30 mins

Servings: 6-8

Ingredients:

  • 3 ½ pounds lamb stew meat, chopped

  • Salt

  • 5 cloves garlic, chopped

  • 2 tbs ginger, grated

  • 4 cups yellow onions, rough chopped - divided

  • 1 preserved lemon, diced - divided

  • 1 cinnamon stick

  • 1 tbs cumin, 2 ts cayenne, 2 tbs paprika, 2 ts turmeric, 1 ts ground cardamom, ½ ts ground cloves

  • ½ cup olive oil - divided

  • 6 large carrots, diced

  • 3 tbs tomato paste

  • 5 cups beef stock

  • 15 oz can of chickpeas

  • ½ cup dates, chopped

  • ½ cup dried apricots, chopped

  • ½ cup golden raisins

  • 1 cup cilantro, chopped

Procedure:

In a large bowl or a gallon Ziploc bag, generously salt the lamb pieces. Add the garlic, ginger, 2 cups of the onions, half the preserved lemon, and the cinnamon stick. Mix all the spices together, and add to the lamb mixture. Massage all the ingredients together. Cover the bowl or close the bag and put in the refrigerator for 12-24 hours.

Pull the lamb from the refrigerator. Allow it to come to room temperature.

Heat ¼ cup olive oil in the bottom of pan on medium to high heat. Using tongs, place the lamb into the oil, so that there is good contact with the pan. Work in batches as needed. Sear two sides of the lamb until you have nice caramelization (brown color). Pull all the lamb from the pan.

Add remaining ¼ cup olive oil to the pan and set it to medium heat. Add the carrots, the rest of the onions, and tomato paste. Sweat the vegetables until the onions are translucent.

Add the lamb to the veggies in the pan. Add the stock, chickpeas, and all the dried fruit. Turn the pan down to medium/low heat (slow simmer) and cover. Let everything cook for 2 hours or a little more.

Taste the tagine at this point. Adjust salt and add remaining preserved lemon. Adjust liquid as needed for the consistency you want.

Cook with the lid off for another 30 minutes.

Garnish with cilantro and eat!