Fine Cooking (February/March 2015)
Thank you so much to all of you who have left comments or sent emails about our 7th Blogiversary post. You guys are the absolute best! We've had the most amazing time reading through all your sweet thoughts about The Bitten Word.
One thing that especially struck us was how many people commented on our musings about how one day we'll probably stop writing this blog. Don't worry: we're not going anywhere.
And how could we, when we've got dishes like this Moroccan Lamb Stew that we need to talk about with you?
This is one of our favorite kinds of recipes to write about, because it's not just an entree -- it's a trend!
!!FOOD TREND ALERT!!
Two of the February food magazines -- Fine Cooking and Food & Wine -- have major features devoted to cooking with tea. (Cooking with tea also happened to be one of our favorite "quickfire" challenges on the season of Top Chef that just wrapped up.)
The Fine Cooking feature, "Think Outside the Teacup," includes all kinds of tea-infused recipes, such as Pan-Seared Scallops with Earl Grey-Orange Buerre Blanc and Crunchy Rooibos Chickpeas. Meanwhile, Food & Wine's "Time for Tea" story includes a primer on "extreme teas," a profile of San Francisco's Samovar tea lounge, a roundup of beautiful teacups and teapots, and recipes like Earl Grey-Crusted Pork Loin with Fennel and Apples and Matcha Tea Cake Cookies. (Incidentally, the differences in these two features are what we love about receiving multiple food magazines. Want to read about new restaurants and kitchenware along with food ideas? There's Food & Wine. Want to focus solely on great recipes? Fine Cooking. Really, both tea features are worth checking out.)
So anyway, this lamb stew.
We knew we had to try one of these tea-forward recipes. Well, this past Sunday, we were having our friends Amanda and Vicky over for dinner. We had errands to run all day, so we wanted a meal we could easily make ahead of time. Voila! -- this lamb stew. We made it entirely ahead of time, on Saturday, and simply reheated it Sunday night.
We made two very slight substitutions here, and they may have affected the final product. First, the recipe calls for loose tea leaves; we didn't bother with that and instead picked up some Moroccan mint tea in bags at Whole Foods. Second, the recipe calls for 3 cups orange juice, from about 6 oranges. We bought 6 oranges, but they yielded barely 2 cups of juice. To make up the difference, we juiced some clementines, since that's what we had in the fridge.
We don't know if those two substitutions made any real difference, but the final result of this stew was really sweet. Really, really sweet. Initially, we thought it tasted closer to dessert than stew. Clementines are certainly sweeter than typical oranges -- maybe that was enough to make the difference? At any rate, we added salt and more ras el hanout to help balance the flavors. (Having this as leftovers on Monday night, when it was just the two of us, we added even more salt and some hot sauce, which finally got it to where we personally liked it.)
That's not to say this stew wasn't good. It was very good.
We loved steeping the tea in the OJ. You can definitely taste the tea in the final product, and it's delicious. And the ras el hanout (which we cooked with at Thanksgiving) is awesome. Its heady mix of ginger, cardamom, anise and other spices is deeply complex and delicious.
Served with cool creamy yogurt and fresh mint, it was a very nice stew.
This isn't a quick-and-easy, throw-it-together kind of meal. But if you want a tasty, hearty, slow-cooked stew with lots of layers of flavor, it's a great dish for a cold winter night.
Moroccan mint tea is made from green tea and spearmint, but if you can’t find it, any mint tea will do. This richly spiced stew is fragrant with mint tea-infused orange juice and ras el hanout, a Middle Eastern spice blend available at specialty markets.
NOTES FROM ZACH AND CLAY OF THE BITTEN WORD:
- The recipe calls for loose tea leaves; we used 10 tea bags instead.
- With the apricots, tea and orange juice (and our partial substitution of clementine juice), we thought this stew was a little on the sweet side. If it tastes too sweet to you, you can add additional salt and ras el hanout to help balance out the flavor.
- We also preferred this with a little hot sauce. But then, we prefer pretty much everything with a little hot sauce.
3 cups freshly squeezed, strained orange juice (from 6 medium oranges)
1/2 cup mint tea, preferably Moroccan
4-3/4-inch-thick lamb shoulder chops, patted dry (about 2 lb.)
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 Tbs. dry mustard
1 Tbs. ras el hanout
3 Tbs. canola oil
1 medium yellow onion, cut into 1/2-inch dice
1 medium carrot, cut into 1/2-inch dice
1 small rib celery, cut into 1/2-inch dice
1 Tbs. finely chopped garlic
1 Tbs. grated fresh ginger
1 28-oz. can crushed tomatoes
2 star anise
1 cinnamon stick
6 oz. (1 cup) soft dried apricots, halved
1 15-oz. can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1/2 cup chopped fresh mint leaves; whole leaves for garnish
6 Tbs. plain yogurt
In a 2-quart nonreactive saucepan, bring the orange juice to a simmer over medium heat. Remove from the heat, add the tea leaves, and steep for 3 minutes. Strain through a fine-mesh sieve, pressing to extract as much liquid as possible, and set aside.
Season the lamb with salt and plenty of black pepper. In a flat dish, combine the mustard and ras el hanout. Dredge the chops in the mixture.
In a 7- to 8-quart heavy-duty pot, heat 2 Tbs. of the oil over medium-high heat. Add the chops and cook until browned on both sides, about 3 minutes per side. Set aside. Add the remaining 1 Tbs. oil, onion, carrot, celery, garlic, ginger, and any remaining spice mixture to the pot. Cook, stirring often and scraping the browned bits from the bottom of the pan, until the vegetables begin to soften, about 5 minutes.
Stir in the infused orange juice, tomatoes,star anise, and cinnamon stick. Return the lamb to the pot. Add the apricots, cover, and adjust the heat to maintain a gentle simmer. Cook, turning the chops occasionally, until tender, 1 to 1-1/2 hours.
Transfer the chops to a cutting board. Bring the sauce to a boil, add the chickpeas, and cook, stirring occasionally and skimming any fat from the surface, until the sauce is thickened slightly, 5 to 10 minutes. Remove the cinnamon stick and star anise. Trim the bones and fat from the lamb, cut into bite-size pieces, and return it to the sauce. Stir in the chopped mint. Serve topped with a dollop of yogurt, sprinkled with the whole mint leaves.
Make Ahead Tips
You can make the stew up to 1 day ahead up through the step of cutting the lamb meat into chunks. Return the meat to the sauce and refrigerate, covered. Reheat over medium-low heat, then stir in the chopped mint and garnish just before serving with the yogurt and mint leaves.