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The Le Creuset Moroccan Tagine 

A few Septembers ago, we had some old friends from Arizona stay with us for a few days and a memorable dinner with mutual friends.  Darn if they didn't present us with a tagine made by the Le Creuset people.  Wow, one look and lift made it clear that this was not Ahmed’s clay tajin.  The round bottom is treated cast iron, 12-inches wide and 1.5-inches deep.  It holds a 1.5 quarts and weighs 6.5 pounds!  The top is of bright red glazed porcelain and stands about 8-inches high. This is a serious pot.

According to The Food Lover's Companion  “tagine” refers to any of various Moroccan stews featuring meat or poultry gently simmered with veggies, olives, preserved lemons and spices.  It also refers to the specially designed pot used to make the dish.  This pot, usually made of clay or porcelain, consists of a bottom pan and a cone-shaped top.  The top is so designed to promote the return of all condensate to the pan.  Tagines are slow cooked at low temperatures, resulting in tender, falling-off-the-bone meat with aromatic veggies and sauce.  Wonderful. 

We are big fans of couscous and lamb, which led me to the cookbook for all manner of tagine dishes:  Paula Wolfert’s Couscous and Other Good Food From Morocco.  First published in 1973 and still out in paperback, this cookbook is a classic that includes about two dozen tagine recipes. After preparing three of Wolfert’s tagine dishes and my lamb shanks, it dawned on me that the tagine is functionally a Moroccan Dutch oven . . . more precisely: a Dutch oven for two.  That is, it's a stovetop braising pot.  

The Dutch oven (a cast iron pot with a tight lid) is usually heated in the oven.  It can be fired on the stovetop but with inferior results.  Dutch ovens come big and small.  We have four of them, a small, a medium and two huge (three Le Creuset and one Lodge that doubles as our deep fat fryer).  So, why use the tagine instead of a Dutch oven to prepare Western dishes?  Hear me out: 

1) The tagine is the perfect size to prepare a small roast for two people (with leftovers).  2) Le Creuset’s tagine bottom is an iron skillet without a handle, just fine to brown the meat and sweat the onions over high heat. 3) There is just enough room to add your favorite veggies. 4) While simmering, the top can easily be lifted off during the simmering process (you don't even need a mitten), enabling the cook to inspect the roast, add veggies, move things around, or add additional braising liquid, if needed—all this while aromatic scents waft through the kitchen. 5) The tagine is very attractive with its fire engine red top (they now make a blue one, too).  6) And with the top removed, the bottom is open and shallow for a nice presentation and easy serving at the table.

Tagine Pot Roast
Yield:  4 servings or 2 servings with leftovers
See abbreviations, if needed

  ·   2 lbs        roast of pork or lamb shoulder or beef chuck 
  ·   1 T          EVOO
  ·   15 oz       chicken stock or canned chicken or beef broth
  ·   1              large onion, sliced medium thick
  ·   2              carrots, sliced in like-size pieces
  ·   1              garlic, pureed
  ·   8              red potatoes, small to medium size, halved
  ·   1              sprig of thyme
  ·   4              bay leaves
  ·                   S/P

1.  Tie the roast, if necessary to hold its shape
2.  Season the roast well with S/P
3.  Place the EVOO in the iron tagine bottom, when hot, 
     brown all sides of the roast well, using large tongs to handle it
4.  Set the roast aside, add 1/3 cup of the stock and, using a 
     plastic spatula, loosen the residue formed on the tagine bottom 
     while the roast was browned 
5.  Return the roast to the tagine bottom and add the veggies along the sides 
6.  Spread the pureed garlic on top of the roast along with a few of the onions
7.  Add the spices and the rest of the stock (braising liquid) and BTB
8.  When at boiling point, reduce the heat to the lowest simmer setting
9.  Place the cover on the tagine
10.  Braise the roast on the stovetop for about 1.5 hours or until done 
11.  Serve the dish from the tagine bottom 
12.  Optional: To make a sauce: When the roast and veggies are done, remove
       them carefully to a serving platter and keep in a warm place. Bring the
       braising liquid to a brisk boil and reduce the volume by about one-half,
       or enough sauce for 4 servings. Taste and season as desired.
       Serve the dish with the sauce on the side
Notes:  a) If the roasts at the counter are too large, ask the butcher to cut one in half and package them separately.  b) All manner of veggies can be used for this dish.  Try eggplant, green beans, zuchs, broccoli, sweet potato, whatever.  Soft veggies should be added midway through the cooking process.  c) There will be a little sputtering of braising liquid around the seal as the tagine simmers.

See also my Osso Bucco Tagine  and Turkey Legs Tagine, Brisket of Beef Tagine and Quik Chix Tagine


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