Friday, February 26, 2010

Fragrant Morrocan Beef

Two weekends ago I made Fragrant Morrocan Beef, Date, Honey, & Prune Tagine (I mean, what a title) in my five quart Dutch oven to take to Marsena, our daughter who lives in Chicago. It is rich in cumin, coriander, and cinnamon with little bursts of fruity sweetness from the dates and prunes. It’s best made a day ahead to give the flavors time to marry and mellow. I can’t even think about it without wanting some now, and cast iron makes it even better.

For some illogical reason, I decided to reconditioned my five quart Dutch oven in the cleaning cycle of my electric oven late the day before we left. Usually I’m very careful about doing things that require me to stay up late because I love my bed and getting there VERY early makes me happy and I get VERY crabby when I can’t. This method of reconditioning (there are any number) is from one of my favorite web sites for cast iron cooking and care – Blackirondude –  (go on his site and search for reconditioning) - and it takes three hours with the oven on lock-down so I couldn’t change my mind halfway into it. The heat burns off all the gunk – turns it to little white ashes on the bottom of the oven – and then you need to re-season the pan, which also takes time, which I didn’t have because I already knew I’d need to stay up late just to cook this dish. So I didn’t have time to thoroughly re-season it and thought I could get away without it.

Here’s Denis carrying it to the porch about midnight while it’s still hot from the oven. Hmmm. You know what all that trapped moisture does to unseasoned exposed iron? Oxidizes. So the next night when I reheated it I noticed a great deal of red rust around the top, please learn this lesson, which I sneakily wiped away and didn’t mention.
Whatever prejudice you may have about dates or prunes or cumin, please listen, DO NOT LEAVE THEM OUT, this dish is so fabulous you will almost die. I’m serious. My chef friend, Karen, from whom I stole this recipe, serves it with new potatoes. But we ate it with a brown rice couscous, a fruit salad and a red wine.

When we were done eating we did notice a weird black staining on our teeth and lips, like we’d been eating licorice. We finally figured it was iron filings magnetically clinging to our greedy little mouths. Nothing toothpaste couldn’t remedy, but I won’t do that again. Despite the extra iron in our diet, this Moroccan tagine could not be stopped and we all declared it a once-a-weeker kind of dish.

Fragrant Moroccan Beef, Date, Honey and Prune Tagine
53 min | 45 min prep
3 lbs organic beef, trimmed of fat and cubed, season with salt and pepper
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 lb onion, peeled and quartered
4-6 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped finely
1 lb carrots, peeled and cut into chunks
9 ounces canned tomatoes
4 ounces dates, pitted but kept whole
6 ounces prunes, pitted but kept whole
2 tablespoons honey
1/2 pint beef stock
1 cinnamon stick
6 teaspoons ras el hanout spice mix (or 2 teaspoons cumin powder, 2 teaspoons coriander powder, 1 teaspoon ginger and 1 teaspoon turmeric)
salt and pepper
2 ounces toasted sliced almonds (I forgot the almonds)
2 tablespoons fresh coriander, chopped
2 tablespoons preserved lemons, chopped (Not crazy about this, so I skip them.)

Preheat your oven to 300°
Heat a 5 quart dutch oven and add half of the olive oil to the dutch oven and quickly brown the onion quarters over a fairly high heat until charred & colored well. Remove to a large plate.
Add the chopped garlic and carrots to the dutch oven and saute for 2 or 3 minutes. Remove to the plate with the onions.
Heat the remaining olive oil in the dutch oven and brown the beef cubes in small batches to sear and seal them. As you finish browning them, add the beef to the plate.
Add the honey to the beef stock and ALL the dried spices. Pour the honey and spiced stock into the dutch oven to deglaze the dutch oven. Scrap all the brown bits from the bottom and mix well with the stock. Add the cinnamon stick.
Return all the vegetables and meat from the plate to the dutch oven.
Add the canned tomatoes, dates and prunes and gently mix.
Place in the preheated oven for 2 to 3 hours or until the meat is fork tender.


Anita said...

"Fragrant Morrocan Beef" otherwise known as "Black Toothed Surprise" was supremely delicious. We looked like we'd walked off the set of The Road or been chewing old tires. TOTALLY worth it. Let's eat it again, smiling big and wide, in public sometime.

Rebecca S. said...

This sounds amazing, must make soon! and please clarify...was the black toothed surprise due to the fact that you went ahead and used the dutch oven even though it was not seasoned at that point? Or is the black toothed surprise just something you have to accept when you want to eat this yummy meal??

Margie Haack said...

Ah. Yes. It was due to not having seasoned it properly. I promise it won't happen to you. Your Dutch oven is a go.

Sandra Oster said...

This will be the next dish I make for a meal for our Sunday evenings here in Auckland. Thanks Margie for continuing to keep me inspired with new meals to prepare.

priscajoy said...

Sometimes my husband wonders how I make such amazing mistakes in the kitchen and still insist that it's ok to feed our children, now I know, it runs in the blood. At least you know what chemical leaked into your food because you can see it!
This reminds me of Grandma's story of the missionary kids who were having a contest to find the most weavels in the cereal that she served them.

Margie Haack said...

Priscilla, somehow our children survive us. And no. It's not the same as eating weevils.
How's Albuquerque? I could use a little sunshine.

Karen said...

Thanks for your generous mention in TDC, and I'm so glad you tried the dish. We look forward to the next time we can share a meal.

The "black tooth syndrome" is a mystery to me. I wonder if the unseasoned iron reacted with ingredients?

Sember said...

When do you add the almonds and cilantro?

Margie Haack said...

Sember, at the end when you are serving it.

Katy Bowser said...

Margie, you've just singlehandedly gotten me out of a cooking rut, with this and the ginger cake. Thank you! Just learned something on the oxidizing front- bad idea to steam your oysters in your skillet. Stripped it all to pieces, and today I begin seasoning again. I'm guessing it's the brineyness. oops.

Ruthie said...

Made this tonight, served with brown rice (I can't really imagine it with potatoes - the juice screams for rice), and it's going into the "Tried and True" binder. I was skeptical of those tomatoes, but they totally worked! Yummy!