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

Ingredients

  • 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

Instructions

  • 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

Ingredients

  • 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

Instructions

  • 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.

Bacon Beer and Australian Leg of Lamb Chili

Live fire leg of lamb chili. Loaded with cumin and garlic-spiced Australian grassfed lamb, smoky hunks of lamb bacon, jalapeno and poblano peppers, a blend of heirloom tomatoes, and an aromatic garden of fresh herbs. Prepared over a slowly smoldering bed of charcoal and hardwoods. Garnished with a dollop of crème fraîche and a dash of sriracha and paired best with an ice cold, craft-brewed winter ale. This dish is the perfect centerpiece for a chilly December weekend in the great white, rustic north of Pure Michigan!! -Cheers, David


Live Fire Leg of Lamb Chili

Ingredients

  • 16oz lamb bacon, diced
  • 4-6 large shallots, finely diced
  • 2 tablespoons garlic cloves, minced
  • 4 cups lamb or beef stock
  • 8 ounces dark beer
  • 3 poblano peppers, roasted, peeled and diced
  • 2 jalapenos, minced
  • 3-4 cups tomatoes, diced
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 4 tablespoons chili powder
  • 2 tablespoons paprika
  • 1 tablespoon cumin
  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
  • 2-3 pounds Australian grassfed leg of lamb, boneless and trimmed
  • Olive oil
  • Kosher salt and fresh ground peppercorn, to taste
  • 2 cups kidney beans
  • 2 cups great northern beans
  • 1 cup black beans
  • Fresh cilantro, chopped, to garnish
  • Dollop of crème fraîche, to garnish
  • Sriracha sauce, to garnish

Instructions

  • In a heavy-bottom stock pot (or Dutch oven) over medium-high heat sauté bacon until just crispy, then add onion and garlic to the pot and cook until fragrant and translucent in color. Pour in stock and beer, tomatoes and paste, peppers, and all seasonings, then stir to thoroughly combine. Cover pot and turn down heat, slowly simmering until liquid reduced by 1/3. Toss in beans and continue to cook for an additional 30 minutes, stirring intermittently.
  • Meanwhile, preheat a grill to high heat. Drizzle the leg of lamb with olive oil and season liberally with kosher salt and fresh ground peppercorn. Over direct heat with the grill lid open, sear lamb 5-7 minutes per side until well-charred. Remove from heat and set aside to rest under a tin foil tent for 10 minutes before carving. 
  • In final 15 minutes of the chili cooking, slice the lamb meat into small, bite-sized cubes and fold into the chili mix.
  • Remove the pot of chili from heat once desired consistency achieved, then season additionally to taste with salt and pepper. To plate, ladle chili into bowls and garnish with chopped cilantro, a dollop of crème fraîche and a splash of sriracha. Cheers!