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Tagine1One of the more extravagant gifts DPaul received for his birthday last month was this fabulous Le Creuset tagine (in red, of course). Of course, that occurred smack in the middle of all our travels, so we hadn’t really had an opportunity to christen the thing until just the other day.

We’ve never made tagine before, at least not in an actual tagine. But a little cursory research indicated a few common threads among recipes. Basically, it’s a braise of browned meats slow-cooked in a small amount of spiced liquid; the cone shape of the lid creates a convection system, causing the steam to condense and drip back down. There are many kinds of tagine, with different ingredients ranging from sweet to savory. For our inaugural run, we decided to do a tagine of chicken with lemon and olives. Conveniently enough, my conserved lemons are ready to go!

For a first pass, it was pretty good. The chicken was moist and flavorful, lightly yet exotically spiced, and the salted lemons lent a pleasantly subtle and fruity flavor, not as intensely salty or tart as I had expected. The only thing that needed serious adjustment was the amount of liquid — less is more. Our tagine was bubbling out all over the place, and required frequent mopping up with a paper towel.

As this was a first attempt, I don’t have a concrete recipe to share at
this point. We’ll do a couple more runs and nail it down. I will however include a quick and easy recipe for cous cous that makes a lovely complement.

Easy Cous Cous
1 stalk celery, finely chopped
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 carrot, peeled and finely chopped
several dried apricots, finely chopped
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
1 c. cous cous
1 c. chicken stock

Put the stock in a small pan over low heat and keep at a simmer. Season to taste at this stage.

In a large skillet, heat 1 Tbsp olive oil and saute the fresh ingredients until the vegetables are translucent, about five minutes. Add the cous cous, stir to mix, covering the grains with the saute oil. Pour the hot stock over the whole kaboodle and stir to combine. Cover and cut the heat. Let stand for at least five minutes. When the liquid is fully absorbed, fluff the cous cous with a fork and serve immediately.


This Post Has 8 Comments
  1. Sounds fun–I have become obsessed with middle eastern/north african cooking lately–mainly condiments so far–but I think a tagine may be the next step.

  2. I have a bit of a love affair going with my tagine. Funny thing is, I have no set recipe! I usually toss in dark meat chicken along with assorted middle eastern ingredients, or whatever I have on hand. I do tend to always make it spicy though for some reason. I’ve never had a failure with it so maybe I need to refine the process and record what I do. Jeez–I hate it when practicality elbows its way into my kitchen!

  3. Erin: I’d be interested in hearing more about your condiments (though we both clearly share a passion for harissa). Definitely make some salted lemons — it’s easy, though it takes time to cure, and it lends such a great flavor.
    Kevin: Ideal that you use it so intuitively. I imagine we’ll treat ours very much the same way, but I would like to develop one solid recipe to share first. Of course, once we have forged a recipe, we pretty well never stick to it from that point on anyway. 🙂
    Garrett: It’s actually closer in form and use to a Dutch oven. It’s got a wide, shallow base with a cone-shaped lid. In Morocco they put these right over hot coals to sear and then braise meats; the cone allows the steam to cool and condense as it rises, and drips back down on the braise. Traditionally the whole thing is ceramic, but modern tagines, like the Le Creuset and All-Clad models, have a metal base; ours is cast iron.
    But in point of fact, you could cook a respectable tagine in a Dutch oven. (Of course, as far as I’m concerned you can cook *anything* in a Dutch oven.) But the tagine is so much more attractive, no?

  4. I had that same darned tagine and the first time I used it, taking it out of the oven and wearing oven mitts, the searing-hot lid slid right from the mitts (there was nothing to grab on to) and crashed in a few (searing-hot) pieces on the floor.
    Glad they’ve added a little band around the top. I think my miffed phone call to Le Creuset might have helped. Although it didn’t get them to replace my lid…perhaps I wasn’t the only one whose tagine crashed & burned (or burned & crashed.)

  5. Wow — I think you may have effected more change even than the little band at the top. Currently, their documentation tells you not to put the tagine in the oven. In a way, it makes sense, as traditional tagines are cooked over hot coals; the lid should remain cooler to effect condensation and keep a good braise going. Kind of like those Le Creuset Dutch ovens that have the divot in the top for ice, though those worry me. I don’t like the idea of a pool of liquid atop a searing-hot pan. Recipe for disaster, no?
    Should you be swinging thru the Bay Area anytime soon, I know a great potter who makes lovely tagines — he can probably make you a new lid, if one of his standard ones isn’t exactly the right size.

  6. More fun with tagine

    So we’ve made three tagines now, all within a week or so. I know I promised a recipe, but in working with this I’ve come to realize that tagine is not so much a recipe as a technique. I file

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