Moroccan Beef Meatball Tagine
I am in love with Morocco. I love its cuisine; colorful, aromatic and intensely flavored. I love its architecture; intricately detailed, bold and seductive. I love its furnishings; bejeweled lamps, lavishly carved armoires and symmetrical mosaics. While Moroccan food has been in my repertoire for years, and Moroccan furnishings are scattered throughout my house, I have yet to visit this beautiful and exotic country. I yearn to wander through the mysterious bazaars, to purchase the earthy spices piled impossibly high into perfect cones. I know I will make it there one day. Until then, I satisfy my cravings at home, recreating the robust dishes of this land.
Morocco was beckoned as I continued my quest to test all five meatball recipes in the January issue of Bon Appetit. The Moroccan meatball tagine was high on my to do list, and I was happy to roll up my sleeves and get to work. I have to say, my husband A. has been a very willing participant (i.e. taste-tester) in this unofficial Bon Appetit test kitchen experiment. Although it's not as if he suffered from boring or repetitive food before! What I love about Moroccan food is that it's often a one-pot meal, a tagine (stew), cooked slowly to release the maximum flavor from each component. This leads to an incredible depth of flavor, layered with complimentary spices and full-bodied vegetables and meats. While tagines are traditionally cooked in a tagine, a clay pot with a conical lid, you can easily achieve the same divine results using a dutch oven or any other heavy large ovenproof pot. Don't let the lengthy ingredient list intimidate you - this recipe comes together with relative ease, and can easily be done in stages. I made the more laborious meatballs in the morning before running out for errands, and in the afternoon the rest of the stew came together in minutes. This dish incorporates all components of Moroccan cuisine, it's aromatic, brightly colored, elaborately spiced and wonderfully hearty. I served the tagine with a traditional side of couscous, brightened a hint of lemon and speckled with cilantro. It was just what I needed to chase away the bizarre chill that crept into Florida. The meatballs are light and offer a kick of heat in contrast to the plump golden raisins which burst into a syrupy sweetness. As I closed my eyes and inhaled, I was transported to Morocco on a magic carpet of cinnamon air.
Moroccan Beef Meatball Tagine - Bon Appetit, January 2010
- 1 1/2 pounds ground beef (20% fat)
- 1/3 cup coarsely grated onion (1 small onion)
- 1/3 cup panko breadcrumbs
- 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
- 1 large egg, beaten to blend
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 tsp turmeric
- 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
- 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg (fresh if possible)
- 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
- 1/2 tsp coarse kosher salt
- 1/4 tsp ground ginger
- 1 tbs olive oil
- 3 1/2 cups chopped onions
- 4 garlic cloves, minced
- 2 cinnamon sticks
- 1 tsp turmeric
- 1/8 tsp saffron threads, crumbled
- 2 cups beef broth
- 1 14.5oz can diced tomatoes in juice
- 1/4 cup golden raisins
- 2 cups 1/2-inch thick carrot slices, cut on diagonal
- 1/4 cup chopped cilantro, plus additional for garnish
- 1 5oz package baby spinach leaves
Line large baking sheet with plastic wrap. Gently mix all ingredients in a large bowl. Using moistened hands and scant 2 tablespoons for each, roll meat mixture into 1 1/2-inch meatballs. Arrange meatballs on sheet. Keep refrigerated, covered with plastic wrap until ready to use if making ahead.
Heat oil in heavy large ovenproof pot over medium heat. Add onions; saute about 15 minutes. Add garlic, cinnamon, turmeric and saffron, stir 2 minutes. Add broth, tomatoes with juice and raisins.
Preheat oven to 350F. Bring stew to a simmer. Stir in carrots. Carefully add meatballs to stew; gently press into liquid to submerge. Sprinkle 1/4 cup cilantro over. Cover pot; place in oven. Bake until meatballs are cooked through and carrots are tender, about 35 minutes. Sprinkle spinach over stew. Cover and bake until spinach wilts, about 5 minutes longer. Gently stir to mix in spinach, being careful not to break meatballs. Remove cinnamon sticks. Season tagine with salt and pepper if necessary.
Spoon couscous into bowls; top with tagine. Garnish with cilantro and lemon wedges.