Slow cooker lamb dinner that needs no slow cooker


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Posted Online: April 09, 2013, 10:04 am
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By J.M. Hirsch
I have two issues with slow cookers, and both are deal breakers.

First, I resent the fact if I want my meat browned — and therefore flavorful — I must sear it in another pan before adding it to the slow cooker. And yes, I know that a small number of (typically very expensive) slow cookers do have the ability to sear meat. But the reality is, most of us don't own those. To me, much of the convenience of a slow cooker is the ability to do everything in one pot. If I can't, it's a lot less convenient.

Second, I distrust how evenly they heat. While there are some dishes for which uneven heating — and even a bit of overheating — isn't a major deal (I'm talking to you, chili), most meals aren't that forgiving. I have rendered far too many recipes inedible by misjudging how intense (or not) my slow cooker would cook. I much prefer the precision of my stovetop, which I can tweak to perfection.

It's for these reasons I've recently become enamored with one of the original slow cookers — the tagine.

At heart, these conical cooking pots from Morocco are similar to a Dutch oven, at least in terms of how they are intended to be used. The base is shallow, similar to a saute pan. This is topped with a cone-shaped lid. The base is heated directly on the stove, giving the cook not only the ability to sear meat, but also to finely tune the temperature. Many tagines are ceramic, but some are cast iron.

Once the ingredients are seared and liquid is added, the lid is placed on the base, the heat is adjusted to maintain a simmer and the cook can walk away. The shape of the lid is designed to allow steam to gather and condense at the top, then drip back down into the food. The result is near flawless slow cooking that results in moist, tender meats.

I usually start by browning onions and garlic in oil, then adding meat and searing that. I dump in the rest of my ingredients, then pop on the lid, lower the heat and walk away for several hours.

So to help usher in spring, I used my tagine to create this recipe for lamb with chickpeas, tomatoes and rosemary. Hugely flavorful and tremendously easy. I keep it lean by trimming away as much fat from the lamb as possible. Don't have a tagine? Use a heavy duty Dutch oven.

Rosemary lamb tagine with chickpeas and tomatoes
Start to finish: 2 1/2 hours (15 minutes active)
Servings: 8
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large yellow onion, diced
1 head garlic, minced
2 pounds lamb leg or stew meat, trimmed of fat and cut into 1-inch pieces
2 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary
15-ounce can chopped or diced tomatoes
15-ounce can chickpeas, drained
3/4 cup chicken broth
Salt and ground black pepper
1 lemon, cut into wedges
Chopped fresh parsley, to garnish
Plain Greek yogurt, to serve

In the base of a tagine or large Dutch oven over medium-high, heat the oil. Add the onion and garlic, then saute until tender and lightly browned, about 2 to 3 minutes. Add the lamb and brown on all sides, about 15 minutes.
Stir in the rosemary, tomatoes, chickpeas and broth, then bring to a simmer. Cover, reduce heat to maintain a bare simmer and let cook for 2 hours, or until the lamb is fork tender.
Season with salt and pepper, then divide between serving plates. Squeeze 1 or 2 lemon wedges over each serving, then top with parsley and a dollop of yogurt.

Nutrition information per serving: 300 calories; 110 calories from fat (37 percent of total calories); 12 g fat (4 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 75 mg cholesterol; 21 g carbohydrate; 4 g fiber; 2 g sugar; 28 g protein; 510 mg sodium.

















 




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  Today is Saturday, Aug. 30, the 242nd day of 2014. There are 123 days left in the year.

1864 — 150 years ago: A large pair of elk, captured in Iowa, were exhibited in Market Square today.
1889 — 125 years ago: The Rock Island Arsenal dam was being constructed under the supervision of Charles Frances, of Lowell, Mass.
1914 — 100 years ago: Mrs. Frank Mixer, of Rock Island, was the winner of the final preliminary for the women's handicap golf cup at Rock Island arsenal links.
1939 — 75 years ago: Sixteen hundred persons — many from war-fearful Europe — arrived in New York aboard the German liner Bremen. For two days on the trip, passengers were cut off from the world with both incoming and outgoing radio messages banned.
1964 — 50 years ago: Police reported five youths have been involved in the theft of about seven cars in recent weeks. Three of the youths were arrested Saturday afternoon, one was in custody as the result of a previous arrest, and the fifth is expected to be arrested today.
1989 — 25 years ago: The Rock Island/Milan School Board is asking the city to tear down Franklin School and allow the school district to pay back the estimated $100,00 cost during 10 years.






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