On my day of hooky, I also decided that something needed to be done with the lamb loin chops that had been sitting in our freezer for a little too long. I followed the model of our pre-refrigeration forebearers and covered up sub-par meat with lots of spices and slow cooking. I started with this recipe for Lamb Tagine with Prunes. The recipe claims to be from a person named Mary Kay Radnich. It is, however, astonishingly similar to Martha Stewart's recipe as blogged by Oswego Tea. As usual, I deviated wildly from the recipe and skipped steps like "refrigerate overnight and then skim off the fat."
One of my deviations was to add way too much cayenne pepper to my homemade ras el hanout. Not one to give up hope, I searched the available literature and, after many dead ends, I discovered that when a dish is too spicy three things can help (a) longer cooking time, (b) overnight refrigeration, and (c) a tablespoon of sugar mixed with lime juice, lemon juice, or vinegar and stirred into the mix. Since I was planning to slow cook and store for lunches anyway, I did all three. And it worked! The main reason I am posting this entry is to make these solutions for too much spiciness more easily google-able. The stew was kicky, but quite edible.
Not Martha Stewart's Lamb Tagine with Prunes
1 medium onion, finely diced
3 tablespoons ras el hanout
***OR make your own by combining:
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground ginger (I used fresh ginger, and then learned that you're not supposed to, so get the dried ground stuff)
1 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander seeds
1/2 teaspoon cayenne (be careful, here's where I was too heavy-handed)
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon rosewater (optional)
In a large Tupperware or freezer bag, combine:
1 1/2-3 pounds of lamb with bones (I used lamb loin chops, but something fattier and cheaper is more traditional) with the spice mixture. Marinate for one hour on the counter, or several hours in the fridge.
In a heavy-bottomed pan, melt:
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
Dump in the lamb and the marinade and brown the lamb on all sides. Then add:
A large pinch saffron
1 cinnamon stick
Water to cover
Simmer the lamb covered for 1 1/2 hours, or until tender. The "covered" part is very important, because we are trying to imitate the cooking process that would take place inside the traditional Moroccan tagine dish, which is funnel-shaped to encourage condensation and keep the sauce very liquid.
In another pan, heat:
1 teaspoon olive oil
2 medium onions, sliced
2 teaspoons sugar
Saute the onions until they are very soft and slightly browned. Add and cook for 15 minutes on high heat:
1/2 cup canned crushed tomatoes
1 large can of chickpeas
Bring the lamb pot to a boil, and add the onion/tomato mixture. Simmer covered for 15 more minutes, then remove the lid, and stir in:
1 1/2 cups of pitted prunes (or dried plums, as they are called these days, since prunes aren't very sexy)
Simmer rapidly for another 20 minutes, or until thickened.
Serve over rice, or with lavash or pita bread. Or refrigerate overnight and have for lunch the next day.