I was inspired to make Mrouzia, a traditional Moroccan lamb dish characterized by sweet honey and almonds, by a tweet and photo from Saveur magazine. I love lamb and am always up for some tender, slow-cooked meat. I took elements from the Saveur recipe and also from the NY Times and three hours later, bam: sweet, spicy, tender lamb over tri-color couscous. Look at that presentation, people. Ugh. I kill myself.
I obsessively try to make sure that I do all my prep work before anything goes on the stove. Chop up onions, garlic and apricots, blanch and peel the almonds, mix all the spices for ras el hanout. Ras el hanout is a North African spice blend that I guess can be found in some stores, but if you have all of the curry spices and a few others, you can just wing it and mix it yourself. Blanching almonds is easy. Just put them in a bowl and pour boiling water over them. Let them sit for a little more than a minute, then drain and rinse with cool water. The skins should just squeeze off between your fingers.
OK. In a Dutch oven, add the lamb shanks to a bit of melted butter and olive oil. Brown the shanks on all sides and then remove from the pot and set aside. I got my lamb shanks at the food store. They were like $10 each which is way high, so we just got two big ones.
Let the onions and garlic simmer for a few minutes before adding the rest of the dry ingredients: spices, raisins, apricots and cinnamon stick. When thats all golden and fragrant, add the lamb back followed by honey, water/stock and almonds. I used about three cups of water and one chicken stock cube, but while cooking I ended up needed to keep adding more water.
Since my Dutch oven is so big and the lamb wasnt fully covered, I flipped them over a few times throughout the few hours so they cooked evenly. This cooks partially covered on medium heat, and the escaping steam allows the sauce to cook down. If it gets too low and dry, add more water. There's so much flavor in there that it doesn't really water down.A few hours later it looks like this. All ready to go. These shanks were huge, so Denise and I cut the meat off of one and split it. Throw it over couscous, drench it in sweet sauce and top it with sesame seeds. This meal is restaurant quality, if I do say so myself, and really doesn't require that much attention once it's simmering away. Traditionally this dish is made in a tagine with lamb shoulder instead of shank and forms a stewy consistency. I would probably use that instead of shank next time because pieces of the shank were really quite fatty.
Success tastes so good.