Moroccan Lamb Stew

World War II had engulfed Europe, reaching all the way to Rick Blaine’s Cafe Americaine in French-held Morocco.  The Nazis had overrun France and were heading into its unoccupied possessions in Africa with many people trying to escape by way of Casablanca.  Casablanca, a cinematic masterpiece that has stood the test of time, is not only a suspenseful wartime adventure but a story of great romance filled with snappy and memorable lines repeated by movie buffs worldwide.  Who can forget the words of Humphrey Bogart as Rick Blaine when he says to Ilsa, played by Ingrid Bergman, “What I’ve got to do, you can’t be any part of Ilsa.  I’m no good at being noble, but it doesn’t take much to see that the problems of three little people don’t amount to a hill of beans in this crazy world.  Someday you’ll understand that.  Now, now… here’s looking at you, kid.”

Bogart is the embittered expatriate and mysterious cafe owner with a past who set up the nightclub business with his longtime friend and piano player, Sam.  Can you imagine walking through the doors of his establishment and meeting his employees, all refugees under his protection… an emotional Russian bartender, a polished French croupier, the grandfatherly German waiter… and Sam at the keyboard.  What a fascinating place it must have been… could you imagine the romance and intrigue of dining there during such dangerous times?

The movie plot set aside let’s take a look at Morocco, its cooking and its cuisine.  A wide variety of spices are used in Moroccan cooking to create rich flavorful sauces and zesty sides and salads.  The four basic spices needed to get started in the preparation of meat and vegetable tagines and stews are salt, pepper, ginger and turmeric.  From there the list expands to include saffron, white pepper, cinnamon, paprika, cumin, anis seed, sesame seed, coriander, parsley and mint .  Seasoning preferences vary widely since most Moroccan cooking is done from memory and experience rather than by following the precise measurements of a written recipe.  Moroccan cuisine is extremely diverse because of the influences of Morocco’s interaction with the outside world for centuries.  It is a mix of Berber, Moorish, Mediterranean, Arab and African influences, refined by the cooks in the royal kitchens of Fez, Meknes, Marrakesh, Rabat and Tetouan over the centuries.

Beef is the most commonly eaten red meat in Morocco but lamb is preferred, albeit less common due to its higher cost.  The following Moroccan Lamb Stew is a zesty and flavorful dish we created that is served with great versatility.  We’ve enjoyed it as a stand-alone stew accompanied with couscous and a salad of crisp peppery greens, a pot pie topped with mashed potatoes mixed with tangy goat cheese and caramelized garlic, browned in a hot oven… or served over whole wheat pasta and garnished with minced fresh mint.  All three variations are truly delicious!

Moroccan Lamb Stew

  • 2 – 2 1/2 lb boneless leg of lamb

Trim excess fat and cut into 3/4 – 1-inch cubes. Season with:

  • All-Purpose Meat Rub

 

Set seasoned lamb aside.  Trim and cut into 3/4-inch cubes:

  • 1 1/2 lb Japanese eggplant

Place a heavy 12-inch Dutch oven over moderately high heat and add:

  • 2 -3 T extra virgin extra virgin olive oil

When the oil begins to shimmer add the eggplant and stir to coat with the oil:

Saute until the eggplant has begun to soften and the skin is a bit charred:

Transfer the eggplant to a bowl on the side.  To the Dutch oven add:

  • 1 – 2 T additional extra virgin olive oil

While the oil is heating dredge the seasoned lamb in flour.  Shake off excess flour and brown the lamb in batches without crowding in the pan:

Transfer the browned lamb to a bowl on the side:

To the Dutch oven add:

  • 2 T extra virgin olive oil

When the oil is shimmering add:

  • 1 yellow onion, chopped
  • 8 whole peeled garlic cloves, minced

As the onions release their moisture, stir and scrape the bottom of the pan to begin releasing the browned bits.  Place the lid on the Dutch oven and cook for 8 minutes, allowing the steam to complete the release of any remaining bits stuck to the bottom of the pan.  Add:

  • 1 C dry white wine

Stir and cook until the wine is completely evaporated.  Add:

  • 3 T flour

Stir to combine and thoroughly incorporate.  Add:

  • 1 red bell pepper, diced

Stir to combine, then add:

  • 1 28-oz can diced tomatoes
  • 2 1/2 C beef stock
  • 1 T smoked paprika
  • 1/2 tsp ground allspice
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 T ground coriander
  • 1 T ground cumin

Stir to combine.  Add:

  • the browned lamb

Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer and cover.  Cook for 45 minutes. Add:

  • the sauteed eggplant
  • 3 heaping T minced fresh mint
  • 3 heaping T minced fresh cilantro
  • 1 C pitted and halved Kalamata olives

Stir and cook uncovered for an additional 20 minutes.

Should you choose to prepare pot pies, peel and quarter while the stew is cooking:

  • 1 1/2 – 2 lb Russet potatoes

Cook until fork tender, then rice while hot:

Add:

  • 5-oz soft goat cheese
  • 2 – 3 T unsalted sweet butter
  • 1 T roasted and caramelized garlic

Stir till smooth, adding, if necessary for consistency:

  • 1 -2 T creme fraiche

When the stew is fully cooked divide it between 6 individual casseroles:

With a pastry bag pipe the seasoned mashed potatoes over the tops of the casseroles:

Place in a preheated 375 degree oven and bake until the ridges of the mashed potato topping begin to turn golden brown and the juices of the stew are bubbling, approximately 30 – 45 minutes:

Chef’s Note:  The individual casseroles can be covered with film following the addition of the topping and refrigerated for later service.  When ready to be used simply take them from the refrigerator, remove the film and place them in a preheated 375 degree oven and bake for approximately 1 hour, at which time they will be bubbly and golden brown!

Once again, enjoy this wonderfully flavorful and delectable stew over freshly cooked whole wheat pasta, generously garnished with mint to taste… or en casserole…

… or gloriously alone accompanied with couscous and fresh garden greens laced with spicy wild arugula tossed with a fruity olive oil and fine vinegar…

From Casablanca and Morocco, “Here’s looking at you, kid!”… Bon Appetit!

Copyright 2010, Via Aurea Designs, Inc., All Rights Reserved

 

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Categories: Lamb

Author:Steve Meyer & Dayton Azevedo

Food and fine cooking have been our passion for many years, fueled by the year-around abundance of fresh fruits, vegetables, poultry and meats, as well as aromatic spices and herbs readily available to us here in the San Francisco Bay Area, making adventuresome, creative and delicious 5-star cooking a reality in our kitchen. Our aim is to make it yours as well by utilizing our step by step instructions and serial photographs. Bon Appetit from our kitchen to yours...!

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