Winter Dinner Party — Rose’s Tagine With Polenta
On a cool summer evening at the FC’s grandparents home on the Cote D’Azur, I was treated to the most delicious lamb and apricot tagine. I kept serving myself more (seconds, thirds) hoping no one would notice, and panicky as I saw others also diving in. Would there be enough for fourths? I could barely focus on the dinner party conversation, too busy thinking about how I could score another spoonful without raising eyebrows.
Nadette and Henri’s cook, Rose, consistently blows my mind with her simple, homestyle French cooking. This tagine (which served twelve that night) is one of my favourites and when the FC asked for the recipe, Rose kindly sent us a scan from her book. (Alas, the book is not dentified here, but I intend to find her source, promise!) Unlike other Morroccan lamb stews, the recipe doesn’t call for extra vegetables or canned tomatoes, it’s just lamb, onions, dried apricots, spices, and water. So basic, I love that. I also love the sweet syrupy texture the apricots add to the stew. Divine.
I made the tagine last night for a winter dinner party and it was a huge hit. Just like Rose, I served it with polenta instead of the traditional couscous. It’s just the perfect (and crazy-easy) compliment for this dish. For the vegetarians, I made Julia’s Child ratatouille, which also pairs nicely with polenta but a simple salad would work too if you’re not catering to herbivores (who I totally respect, by the way!)
Here’s the recipe. It serves six, but you can easily double it, as Rose did, for bigger groups. Serve directly from the pot, buffet style, so your guests can dive right in (and you don’t have to deal with arranging individual plates, which always leaves the first person waiting politely as their food turns to ice. Just watch out for the gluttons (like me) this dish goes fast.
The recipe is in French so you’ll have to translate, as I did. But the dish itself is a breeze. (Quick Note On The Lamb Preparation: The recipe calls for forty-five minutes of simmering, but I doubled this (making sure to add the apricots only for the last twenty minutes.) You can’t really overcook lamb shoulder, it just gets more and more melt-in-your-mouth tender. I also asked the butcher to leave a few bones in some of the meat cubes, for added flavour. Quick Note On the Polenta: I doubled Giada De Laurentis’ recipe, adding less butter and about 1/2 cup of grated parmesan for extra kicks. )