|Duck and Apricot Tagine with Full Belly Farm New Potatoes, Cabbage Slaw and Fermented Beets and Turnips|
The weather turning colder begs us to cook braises, meat on the bone, head to the spice shop to stock up on fresh stores for winter, and enjoy long lingering dinners. Cooking Moroccan style fills the bill, giving an excuse to use the preserved lemons and bone broth that have been piling up in the pantry and freezer. The spices in Ras el Hanout, literally "top of the [spice]shop" made hitting the right flavor notes easy. A version I just picked up at Oaktown Spice Shop includes paprika, cumin, ginger, both ceylon and cassia cinnamon, turmeric, grains of paradise, allspice, nutmeg, mace, cayenne and more. The result is complex, pungent but not hot, warm and sweet and easy to digest, harmonizing the flavors of the duck, parsnips and dried apricots. It just might make you lean back on the cushions and let out a moan.
These days I usually skip the couscous (it is really a pasta, not a whole grain) and serve tagines, the fragrant sweet/savory stews of the region, with a starchy vegetable side like potatoes or a mash of turnip, cauliflower and/or celery root. The traditional seven salads that start a Moroccan meal might be condensed to one or two. Mint tea, dates, and yes, a hot hand towel, provide a lovely finish to linger over.
Duck Tagine with Dried Apricots
Serves two, with leftovers for one of you for lunch the next day.
3 duck legs
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons schmaltz, ghee, duck fat, bacon grease or olive oil
1/2 red onion, diced
5 cloves garlic, sliced
1 cinnamon stick
1 1/2 tablespoons Ras al Hanout
2 stalks celery, diced
1 parsnip or carrot, diced
1 1/2 cups chicken or duck bone broth, stock, white wine or water
1/2 cup dried apricots, chopped
1/2 preserved lemon*, diced
3 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
Score the skin on the duck legs all over, cutting just to the meat. Rub with salt and freshly ground pepper. Heat the fat in a large stew pot over medium-high heat, add the duck legs, skin side down, and brown the duck legs in the hot fat on both sides, for about 4-6 minutes per side. Remove the duck to a plate and add the onion to the pan, sauteing it until it begins to turn golden, about 5-10 minuets. Add the garlic, cinnamon stick and Ras al Hanout, and stir for about 1 minute, bringing out the flavors of the spices. Add the celery and parnsip and stir together for a minute or two. Add the duck and stock and bring to a boil, then put a lid on the pot and reduce the heat to a simmer. Simmer for an hour or more, until the meat begins to pull away from the bone, then stir in the apricots and lemon, remove the lid, and continue simmering until all is tender, 15-30 minutes more. Stir in fresh cilantro just before serving, reserving some for garnish.
*Note: It is worth waiting a week or two to preserve some lemons if you don't have any on hand--the flavor they bring to the dish really can't be duplicated. Plus, preserved citrus is the easiest fermentation project you'll ever try. Check out this post for the details: http://gastronicity.blogspot.com/2013/07/summer-ferments.html.
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