Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Moroccan Lamb Stew

Last time I ordered meat from my CSA, I decided to branch out a bit from my typical beef and poultry selection and bought two kinds of lamb - stew pieces and a lamb leg steak.  The steak is still in the freezer waiting for the right recipe, but the stew meat got put to excellent use last week with a Moroccan inspired Rachael Ray recipe.  I've made this before, but it's been years so this was a good opportunity to dig it out.  Fortunately, since I last made it there are tons of new comments on the Food Network website.  As you probably know, Rachael Ray is all about the "30-minute meal", and as great as that is in theory, stews are really not meant to be rushed.  The reviews suggested throwing the timing out the window and cooking this for a few hours to get really melt-in-your-mouth results, which I think was an excellent idea.

The nice thing about stew is that, despite the long cooking time, it's usually pretty quick to pull together, and this is no exception - the hardest part of the prep work was finding all the spices on my spice rack!  But still, 2 hours of cooking required some advance planning since I generally don't start dinner until about 7pm.  Instead, I made the stew during the munchkin's nap time, let it simmer until it was time to leave for our afternoon activity, let it hang out in the fridge for a few hours, and then put it back on the stove after she went to sleep.  This worked perfectly, and I highly recommend the do-ahead approach, even getting it started the night before!  The flavors in this dish are amazing...sweet and savory and rich all at the same time.  The meat really did melt in your mouth along with the dates, which are so sweet and yummy.  The only problem is that it is not the most beautiful looking meal - lots of brown, which is why there's no picture this time :)  I'd recommend serving this over couscous, although I made quinoa this time because I was out of couscous and I think in the end any grain you like would work.  I hope you enjoy!

Moroccan Lamb Stew
adapted from Food Network

1 1/2 pounds boneless lamb stew pieces
2 teaspoons grill seasoning (I used a combination of kosher salt, black pepper, and a different meat seasoning blend I had on hand)
1 rounded teaspoon turmeric
1 rounded teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon coriander
1/2 teaspoon paprika (not smoked)
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, thinly sliced or chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
10 to 12 pitted dates, halved, about 8 oz
1 1/2 cups chicken stock

Add all of the spices to a gallon sized food storage bag and shake to mix.  Add lamb and shake to evenly coat all of the pieces with the spice blend.

Heat a large, deep skillet over medium-high heat. Add olive oil, then the lamb. Sear the lamb and caramelize the meat all over, 5 to 7 minutes. Add the onions and garlic and cook 5 minutes more. Add the chicken stock to the pan and cover.  Simmer for approximately 2 hours or until the lamb can be easily pulled apart with a fork (leave plenty of time; you can always keep it warm until you're ready to eat if it cooks faster than you expect).  About 5-10 minutes before the end of the cooking time, add the dates.  If there seems to be too much liquid near the end, cook with the cover off to thicken, or add more stock if needed.

Serve over whole wheat couscous or whatever grain you prefer.

Serves 4 (generously)

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