Springtime, a Spring Chicken and Lamb Tagine

One thing I love about the French is their fascination with learning new English words or phrases. Take my boulanger, Jean-Marc, below. I taught him the phrase “poulet du printemps” (poo-lay do prahn-ton) or spring chicken. His first response was “I am not a hen!” Once I explained what it really meant, he was beyond giddy, grinning from oreille-a-oreille (ear-to-ear) and now every time I pop in he exclaims “I am ze spreeeng cheee-ken!” I love the French.

And speaking of spring, what better reason to celebrate after such a loooooooooong, gloomy, gray, cold winter that the start of spring – that and my friend Jean‘s birthday. Spring did indeed arrive though rather elusively popping in and out of winter so since it was still a bit chilly, I decided to make a Tajine d’Agneau (lamb tagine). I’d never made a tajine and had been wanting to cook one since I visited the store at the Monde Arabe lined with the alluring tagines in all sizes, rich colors, and ornate designs.

A tajine has Moroccan origins as a meal as well as a special pot for preparing this dish. The traditional tajine pot is made of a heavy clay which is painted and glazed. The bottom which is flat and circular with low sides and the top is a large cone shaped cover that stays on during cooking. The cover is so designed so that the condensate returns to the bottom of the tajine. Cooked slowly at low temperatures results in a tajine with tender, falling-off-the-bone meat with aromatic vegetables and sauce.

So off Jean and I went to shop. First stop, Place Monge market and Mohammed, or Momo as the kids call him, for his dizzying array of olives, nuts and dried fruits. We made the rounds for the produce and then to my blue-eyed butcher Serge for 2 kilos (approx 4 lbs) of epaule d’agneau (lamb shoulder). Last stop was for a few baguettes traditions graines from the above mentioned spring chicken.

With Edith Piaf signing in the background, I began chopping and cutting. Here’s how it shook out in the end after a little of this and a little of that, a pinch of this and a splash of that…

Menu du Printemps et de l’Anniversaire de Jean

Foie gras, Pate with cornichons
Cashews, Cherry Tomatoes
Fromages des Beaufort d’ete, Gex bleu, and Brebis
~ Kir Royale (Champagne with a splash of Cassis)

Haricots Verts avec Lardons, Noix Epices, Roquefort
~ La Vielle Ferme, 2004 Rhone Valley

Tajine d’Agneau avec Couscous Epices
~ Chateauneuf du Pape 2003

Brut de Chocolat ~ Gateau avec mousse au chocolat noir, crouistillante praline et biscuit au chocolat by Chef de Patisserie Pascal Pinaud

Lamb Tajine ~ for 8 people

2 kilos (4 lbs) lamb shoulder, cut into 1-inch cubes
1 cup flour
2 medium onions, diced
3 cups water
splash or 2 of red wine
3 carrots, cut in half then in 1/4-inch slices
1/4 pumpkin or 1 butternut squash, peeled, seeded, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
2 cups pitted prunes, 1 cup cut in half
1 cup dried apricots, all cut in half
1 large pinch saffron threads
1-1/2 teaspoons ginger
1/3 teaspoon cinnamon
a few shakes cumin
a few shakes coriander
a few shakes paprika
a few shakes cardamom
a few grinds nutmeg (try to use a fresh nutmeg nut)
pinch or two cayenne

1. Cut carrots and pumpkin or squash, toss in a tablespoon of vegetable oil and roast in a 400 degree oven for 30 minutes or not quite done.

2. Cut the lamb into 1-inch cubes (or ask your butcher to do it). Sprinkle the lamb with sea salt, fresh ground pepper and lightly flour.

3. Brown the lamb in vegetable oil in batches and set aside in a bowl. Ask the butcher to cut the bone into 1-inch pieces. Brown the bones and set aside.

4. Add a splash of vegetable oil and the diced onions to the pan and cook until softened. Put the meat, bones and any juice in the bowl back into the pan. Add the water, wine, and saffron. Bring to a boil then reduce to a simmer. Cover, add all the spices, and cook for about 30 minutes.

5. Add the carrots, pumpkin, apricots and prunes and cook for another 15-20 minutes. This might take longer based on your stove. I have a super btu burner that cooks pretty hot and fast.

6. Taste and add spices, salt and pepper until you have the desired taste.

7. Serve over couscous.

Bon Appetit, Bon Printemps et Bon Anniversaire!

Poulet du Printemps et Tajine d’Agneau 13 May,2006Cucina Testa Rossa

  • Tanna

    I’m wild about Tagines and yours looks divine! A must try! Your pictures are glorious. Lovely blog.

  • cucina testa rossa

    thanks Tanna! it was a fun night and now i’m not intimidated by tajines any more 🙂


Cucina Testa Rossa

After a decade in Silicon Valley, Laura traded her keyboard for a cutting board and moved to New York City to immerse herself in food and wine studies and restaurant operations. She graduated from the French Culinary Institute where she studied under Master Chefs Jacques PĂ©pin, AndrĂ© Soltner, Alain Sailhac, and Master Sommelier Andrea Immer. While in New York, Laura cooked with some of the world’s most highly acclaimed chefs including Mario Lohninger (Danube), Morimoto, Mark Franz & Emily Luchetti (Farallon), Michael Romano (Union Square CafĂ©), Mario Batali, Marcella Hazan, Jonathan Cartwright (White Barn Inn), Martin Heierling (Bellagio), Dave Pasternack (Esca), Richard Reddington (Redd, Auberge du Soleil), and the legendary Alice Waters (Chez Panisse).

After working as the Back Kitchen Chef of Jacques PĂ©pin’s PBS cooking show, “Fast Food, My Way”, Laura moved to France to cook her way around the country. She cooked at the Cannes Film Festival, then to the northwest corner of France, to Britanny, to cook on a lobster boat, then east to Paris to the world famous Pierre HermĂ© Patisserie where she made thousands of his macarons every day! Laura cooked for the fabulous Olivia de Havilland and interned at 3 Michelin Star Le Cinq under Chef Philippe Legendre and Pastry Chef Fabrice Lecleir. Laura was the executive chef and cooking instructor at the DaVinci Code chateau outside of Paris where she was on set during the filming of the movie.

In Fall 2007, Laura worked on Jacques Pepin’s most recent PBS television series as prop and food stylist. “More Fast Food, My Way” should air in the Spring of 2008. “My Keyboard for a Cutting Board ~ Adventures in a French kitchen v1.0”, Laura’s first book highlights her first three months cooking in France, was published in Summer 2006. ConvivialitĂ© is her second book and will hopefully be published in the fall.

Laura now splits her time between Paris and the San Francisco Bay Area doing private chefing, teaching cooking classes and leading market tours when in Paris. Bon Appetit!

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