One 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.