A Taste of Northern Africa – Live Fire Tagine with Braised Lamb Shanks and Orange-zested Couscous
Late this fall I flew to sunny Orlando, FL, joined by a dozen of the most talented chefs and awarded home cooks from North America and Australia in effort to collaborate, create and develop new, inspiring recipes together. The secret ingredient – Australian Grassfed Beef and Lamb. The end result – new friendships, countless laughs, memories to last a lifetime, and nearly two dozen 5-star dishes presented for print photography, small screen filming, and broadcast across social media throughout the season ahead.
My centerpiece presentation for this event was inspired the intersection of traditional and modern culinary culture Morocco. These gorgeous free-range lamb shanks were seasoned simply, but liberally, then charred over live fire before slowly braising to tender, fall-from-the-bone perfection. The shanks were then laid atop a bed of orange-scented couscous, toasted Ras el Hanout hazelnuts, spiced and dried fruits, roasted butternut squash and garlic, sweet shallots, and freshly-harvested heirloom tomatoes. This dish was finished with a drizzle of olive oil, a peppering if pomegranate arils and a garden of aromatic herbs.
Simplicity. Perfection. Cheers and long live the adventure!! -David
Lamb Shank Tagine with Apricots and Moroccan Orange-zested Couscous
- 4-6 Australian grassfed lamb shanks, frenched and trimmed
- Olive oil
- Kosher salt and fresh ground peppercorn, to taste
- 3 cups lamb stock
- 1 cup dried apricots, chopped
- 1/2 cup golden raisins
- 2 medium red onions, thinly sliced
- 4-6 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 small piece ginger root, peeled and minced
- 3 tablespoons Ras el Hanout
- 2 teaspoons ground cumin
- 1/2 teaspoons cayenne pepper
- 1 tablespoon tomato paste
- 15oz can of peeled and chopped (or diced) tomatoes, drained
- 16 ounces butternut squash, 1/2-3/4” cubed
- 1 tablespoon honey
- 1 cup cilantro, loosely packed
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 2-3 cinnamon sticks
- Moroccan Orange-zested Couscous, recipe below
- 1 cup hazelnuts, roughly chopped, salted and toasted, to garnish
- Pomegranate airls, to garnish
- Fresh leaves of mint, to garnish
- Season lamb liberally and refrigerate for 4 hours, up to overnight.
- In a sauce pan over medium-high heat bring lamb stock to a boil, remove from heat, add apricots and raisins. Set aside to cool and steep.
- Remove lamb from refrigeration 1 hour prior to cooking and rest on counter to bring near room temperature. In a Dutch Oven over medium-high heat warm olive oil and work lamb shanks in batches to brown on all sides. Remove lamb from heat and set aside to rest under tin foil tent.
- In same Dutch oven add onion and sauté until just golden and fragrant. Add garlic, seasonings, paste and chopped tomatoes, squash, honey, cilantro, stock and steeped fruits, along with browned lamb shanks. Fold all ingredients together until well-combined. Seal with tin foil, then top with lid before placing inside a 350-400F oven for 2-2 ½ hours, or until the lamb is cooked through and fall-from-the-bone tender.
- Meanwhile, prepare couscous (recipe below) and over a separate burner warm 2 tablespoons butter in a sauté pan with cinnamon stick. Toss in chopped hazelnuts into butter, season to taste with salt and sauté until golden. Set aside to cool.
- To plate, spoon orange-zested couscous onto plate. Top with lamb shank, then spoon aromatics and sauce over the plated shank. Garnish with sautéed hazelnuts and leaves of mint. Serve.
Moroccan Orange-zested Couscous
- 2 cups lamb stock (or chicken stock)
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
- 1 1/2 cups couscous
- 2 tablespoons orange zest
- Kosher salt, to taste
- Over high heat, bring broth, butter and oil to a boil in a heavy bottom pot. Stir in couscous, cover tightly with a lid and remove from heat. Fold in orange zest and season to taste. Fluff with a fork and serve warm.
p.s. Cheers to the brilliantly talented, Chef Aaron Brooks, Miami, and Chef Renee Scharoff, Boston – my very good friends, chef compadres and the two inspirational folks who partnered with me in the kitchen all day creating this dish and near a dozen others! Here’s to a very merry Christmas and best wishes in the New Year.