Monday: Chickpea Purée with Wilted Dandelion Greens and Barbari Bread
Tuesday: Chicken Confit with Roasted Potatoes and Parsley Salad
Wednesday: Omelet w/ Roasted Mushrooms and Tomatoes
Thursday: Pocho Tacos
Friday: Pizza with Clam Sauce
Saturday: Fettucine with Mushroom Ragu, Salad
Sunday: Brie with Crostini, Raspberry Preserves and Figs, Lamb Tagine, Orange-dressed Salad
Except for the tacos, the clam pizza (an homage to Franny’s in Brooklyn) and the pasta, it was pretty much French food depuis la dernière semaine, merci beacoup.* That N Y Times insert on French Classic cuisine has got a firm hold on me, reinforced by Bourdain’s Les Halles Cookbook – hard for a child of the sixties not to admire the bad-boy of celebrity chefdom. And French cuisine – classic, modern and domestic – is going to be our theme for the next few months or so or maybe even until we have good tomatoes and local eggplant so that we can make a proper ratatouille.
*Since last week, thank you very much – translation provided for those of you who did not struggle through ALM French in high school.
From our cuisine française, we’re going to share our Sunday dinner of Lamb Tagine with you. But, you will say, tagine is not French, it’s Moroccan. Well, yes, but the French colonized Morocco and Algeria among other places, and the cuisine of both have become part of what you might call the ‘new classics’ of France. According to the NYT, five million people of Moroccan descent now live in France and tagine has become a “centerpiece of the chicest dinner parties [exemplifying a modern wave of French home cooking].”
Well – our dinner parties ain’t all that chic (except for Beez who would look stylish dressed in a sweat-suit and eating at McDonald’s), and our feelings about the French are complicated (Bardot, si – Pétain, non), but we do like good food and lamb tagine is damn good food. So, suppress your huffy and weird Marine Le Pen-like French exclusionism, grab your saffron and cinnamon, and try to follow us below.
As an ‘Extra,’ we’re going to share a recipe for the chickpea purée which was perfect with the bitterness of the dandelion greens (you can substitute spinach for a less demanding combination). The clam pizza was good, though still a work in progress, and the chicken confit, which fits our theme for the next few months or so (French cuisine), we’ll feature in a future posting, since we’ll be cooking it again and again because it is hands-down, flat-out, please-God-let-there-be-some-confit-left, delicious. Your family, friends, and hangers-on need this. If you can’t wait for the future blog, let me know and I’ll see what can be done. (A contribution to one of our favorite charities – say, the Stewart Family Foundation for the Purchase of Fine Wine – will secure the recipe tout suite)
(Adapted from ‘The New Essentials of French Cooking’ – NYT, February 19, 2017)
4 hours, plus marinade of at least 1 hour or, better, overnight
(Look – if you’re going to do tagine, it will be the big meal
of the week, and that’s worth spending some time on. Of course,
you could take family and friends to a restaurant and have your
conversation interrupted by some pimply youth asking you how
everything is, your drinking restricted by the need to drive home
or at least not to insult the Uber driver, and you pocket picked for
a meal which, if you work at it, you can cook better.
Ingredients: Serves 6-8
3 lbs. “bone-in” lamb stew meat or lamb neck, cut into 1 ½ inch pieces – what does this mean? Frankly, I’m not sure. I asked the guys at Whole Foods to cut me lamb from the neck or shoulder. Per usual, I had to further butcher the lamb to get it to the right size.
1 ¾ Cups lamb or chicken broth (we used chicken)
1 cup dried apricots (buy the most desiccated apricots you can find, since they will swell up during the cooking – many of the bulk sections in grocery stores have tasty dried apricots, but these will disintegrate in this stew. You want apricots that have wandered through the desert for a Lenten period – at least 40 days and nights)
2 large onions, thinly sliced
1 teaspoon tomato paste
½ teaspoon grated fresh ginger
2 ½ teaspoons of kosher salt (more, if needed, for final seasoning)
2 small cinnamon sticks
Large pinch of saffron
½ teaspoon ground ginger
¾ teaspoon ground turmeric
¾ teaspoon ground black pepper
¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
Pinch freshly grated nutmeg
1/3 cup cilantro, chopped
½ cup slivered almonds
2 scallions finely chopped
2 tablespoons chopped parsley
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil (more as needed)
Lemon juice, to taste
ARE ALL THOSE SPICES NECESSARY? Well, yes, to create the true Moroccan flavor. You may leave out the saffron, if you wish (it’s difficult to taste in the midst of everything else, and it costs a lot)
Salt the lamb with 2 teaspoons kosher salt and let it marinate overnight in the refrigerator – or in a bowl at room temperature for t least 1 hour. The long marinade will give you a deeper flavor. If you’re going for the quick marinade, pat the lamb as dry as you can before salting, since you won’t be able to pat it dry before searing without removing the salt. If you marinate it overnight, it will be fairly tacky and dry, but the pieces near the bottom of the bowl will need some drying.
In a small pot, bring the stock to a boil, then remove from the heat and add the apricots and let sit at least 15 minutes.
While you’re searing the lamb, chop the onions, grate the ginger and assemble the spices. You can chop the scallions and parsley and deal with the almonds and lemon juice later.
Heat the oven to 325 F
In a Dutch oven with a tightfitting lid, warm the 2 tablespoons of oil over medium until hot. Working in batches (3 or 4), add the lamb, leaving room around each piece so that it browns, and brown on all sides (8-10 minutes per batch). Transfer pieces to a plate as they brown.
Note: You’re going to get hot oil on the stove, on the floor and, if you don’t have an apron
Or a chef’s coat, your shirt. Resign yourself to it, the searing is what makes the dish.
Drain the fat, leaving enough to coat the bottom of the pan. Add the onions and ¼ teaspoon of salt, and cook about 8 minutes, until soft, moving the onions around a few times to get all of them cooked.
Add the tomato paste, the ginger, 1 of the cinnamon sticks and the spices and cook until fragrant – about 2 minutes.
Add the lamb with its juice, the apricots and stock, and half of the cilantro. Cover the pot with foil and the with the lid and cook in the oven for 2 ½ hours (you might need up to 3 hours if you have pieces of lamb from the neck), until the lamb is tender. Turn the lamb once or twice during this period.
As the lamb cooks, heat the butter and 1 cinnamon stick in a small skillet over medium. Add the almonds and ¼ teaspoon of salt and cook about 5 minutes or more until golden brown. Discard the cinnamon stick.
Transfer the lamb and juices to a platter and top with the almonds and any butter left in the skillet, the scallions, the parsley and the rest of the cilantro. Serve with lemon wedges.
Important: You need either some good bread (see our recipe for Barbari bread from 2 weeks ago) or some rice to soak up the rich juices. We used rice and served the dish directly from the Dutch Oven, dressing each plate with the almonds, scallions and herbs.
EXTRA Chickpea Purée with Wilted Dandelion Greens and Grilled Bread
If you’ve given in to the zeitgeist, and try to cook meatless on Mondays, as we have, this will serve you well.
Timing: About ½ hour
2 ½ cups cooked and dried, or canned chickpeas drained and tossed dry
¾ cup extra-virgin olive oil, more for drizzling
½ head of garlic (we used 2 large cloves)
6 sage leaves
2 sprigs of rosemary
½ Russet potato (baking potato), peeled and quartered
2 bunches dandelion greens, tough stems trimmed (Note: Dandelion Greens are quite bitter. If you don’t like bitter, use spinach or some milder green. If you are serving this to children, do not use dandelion greens or you’ll put them off vegetables for a decade.)
Sea salt and ground black pepper
Wash and trim greens, peel and quarter the ½ potato, drain and dry chickpeas and assemble other ingredients.
Slice some bread for grilling, or break up a good flat bread (we used Barbari bread)
Place chickepeas in a medium pot and add enough water to cover them by 2 inches. Add ¼ cup of olive oil, the garlic, sage, rosemary and potato and set over medium heat and bring to a simmer. Simmer gently until the potato is very tender and the broth tastes good – that’s right, Bobby, taste the broth. This will take about 20 minutes.
Drain the chickpeas and potato, saving the cooking liquid, but discarding the aromatics.
Purée the chickpeas and potato with ½ cup of olive oil and 2 tablespoons of the cooking liquid until smooth. If needed, add more of the cooking liquid to achieve the consistency you like (we like a sort of loose polenta consistency). Season with pepper and salt and more oil, if needed.
Wipe out the pot and fill it with water (3/4), salt generously and bring it to a boil over high. Add the greens and boil until they wilt and become tender. About 3 minutes. Drain and season with salt and pepper and a drizzle of olive oil.
Ladle the purée (it should still be fairly warm) onto plates, set a mound of greens next to it. Drizzle some more oil over everything, if you wish, and eat. A good piece of grilled bread is a perfect accompaniment.