Two Christmases ago, my parents bought me the most beautiful Le Creuset tagine as a gift. A funky pot that I had been entirely intrigued by but never sprung to purchase for myself. It’s one of those things where you stand in front of it in the store, hemming and hawing over whether or not you’ll actually use it to justify the cost. You say to yourself, “… but it’s so pretty!!” and “I’ll use it ALL the time” knowing that isn’t likely true.
Well, here she is in all her shiny glory… and this was before ombre was a thing!
If visions of Morocco aren’t dancing in your head, you’re probably not alone. Many people aren’t familiar with this piece of North African cookware or the food that traditionally comes out of it. I’m actually not all that well versed either to be completely honest. I did learn however that “tagine” actually refers to both the cookware itself and the meal you make inside of it. Don’t ask me why.
Now, the only tagine I had ever had (before this gift was bestowed upon me), was at the Oyster Club a couple of summers ago. Chef Wayman was serving goat from a local farm with cured olives, braised pear (??) and Israeli couscous, I don’t think I even considered ordering anything else that night. It was divine, mildly sweet with bolder overtones of savory in every melt-in-your-mouth bite. Combinations like this make my eyes cross.
I remember going home and pouring over recipes online. Recipes filled with slow cooked stews, braised meats, bright preserved lemons, briny olives, and couscous had me drooling for more. The unique feature of this particular “pot” is its conical-shaped cover. It allows the steam to circulate and rise, then condense and fall back down on the food in its base. Basting its contents over and over, making everything super moist and densely flavorful.
So when I received this pretty purple toned dish, I was incredibly excited for all of the delicious meals I planned to cook in it. Just like I promised myself in the store! I even made my own preserved lemons in anticipation. Then, she sat, and sat, until one very recent weekend. Sad but true.
At long last, I lifted her from the dust and dark of the basement. I had a celebratory dinner planned for Road Dog. I’m talking, slow cooked, fall-off-the-bone short ribs, braised in red wine and served over a big pile of mashed potatoes. Big burly lumber jack food. Feel-good food. A plate of “OMG I LOVE you” food.
He had been cramming, ahem I mean preparing, for a big exam with the State Police and it was finally going to be over! I don’t know who was more relieved, him or me? The other CSP wives out there know exactly what I’m talking about here. WOOF!
The morning of the exam, we were up with the birds. Or, as my Father used to say, 0:dark-thirty hours. I had to do the wifely thing and make sure he was not heading to this beast of a test with an empty belly. With hardly one eye open, I threw down a massive plate of scrambled farm eggs and extra thick cut bacon fit for a small army along with the essential giant mug of coffee of course.
With him away for the rest of the morning, I was able to make my rounds for the goods. Not before contemplating going back to bed though…
Westerly Meat Packing hooked me up by trimming the short ribs of most of their fat and then cutting them in half to better fit my tagine. I’ll be honest, I didn’t think of that second part. One of the Butcher’s there always asks what I’m making, he refers to me as “Recipe Girl” and I let him because it makes me smile. Plus, I’ve been called worse… When I told him what was on my menu, he made the suggestion to halve them. I’m so glad I agreed! GREAT idea, Butcher Boy.
Red Wine Braised Short Rib Tagine – Recipe from Williams-Sonoma
- 3 tbs. EVOO
- 3 3/4 lb. bone-in beef short ribs (6 to 8 pieces) trimmed of fat and halved by your butcher
- Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
- 1 cup all-purpose flour – I use unbleached/unbromated
- 1 celery stalk, cut into 1/4-inch dice
- 2 carrots, cut into 1/4-inch dice – I used 1 because they were HUGE at my co-op
- 3/4 cup finely diced shallot
- 1 tbs. minced garlic (grown in the USA or organic please)
- 3 tbs. organic tomato paste
- 3/4 tsp. crushed Aleppo chili (I get mine at the Spice House)
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 tsp. chopped fresh thyme
- 1/2 cup organic beef broth
- 3/4 cup red wine
- 1 tbs. finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley for garnish
Note: Since my particular tagine is made by Le Creuset, the base is cast iron and suitable for any heat source. If you are using a traditional version made with earthenware, then follow the directions of the manufacturer.
Set the base over medium high heat with at least 1 tbs of evoo.
Meanwhile, line a baking sheet with tin foil and set your short ribs up like this:
Season them well on both sides with kosher salt and cracked black pepper.
Scoop the flour into a large Ziploc bag and shake each rib individually until coated. This will keep your hands clean and eliminates another dish to wash, sweet right?! You can dredge them in a shallow dish if you prefer. Either way, set them back on the same sheet pan you started with, tapping off the excess.
Next, make sure all of your veggies are prepped.
I like to portion everything out to make things go smoothly.
Including the spices…
Now you can add the ribs to the hot pan for browning. About 3-4 minutes per side.
Add 1 tbs of evoo to the pan in between batches, set aside on a big meaty plate!
Next, sauté your shallots, celery, and carrots until they start to soften.
Then add your gahhhlic and tomato paste, stir to coat.
Toss in the Aleppo chili, thyme, bay leaf, red wine, beef broth, a few more cracks of pepper and healthy pinch of salt. Bring this all to a boil, stir and add the ribs back to the pot.
Finally, cover and reduce the heat to medium-low for a 4.5 – 5 hour simmer.
Remember to rotate the meat around about halfway through.
When dinnertime rolls around, serve the ribs over a heaping mound of mashed potatoes (or polenta, yum!) and hit with a solid pinch of fresh chopped parsley.
Boom – who’s hungry!? Pair with the wine you put in the pot if there’s any left 😉
* For those who don’t have a fancy pants tagine, feel free to use your slow cooker or dutch oven. Either will work just fine.
Happy Spring friends!