The other day I had a nice surprise waiting for me in the mail. POM sent a case of 100% pomegranate juice for me to try. I was excited to open it up and try one because POM Peach Passion Tea is probably one of my favourite beverages of all time (makes great cocktails too). Upon unscrewing the caps off one of the gourd shaped bottles and taking a gulp, I'd have to say that there's probably a reason why most of their products includes other juices.
Pure pomegranate juice is very tart, slightly bitter, and has a "healthy" taste. I wouldn't say it's bad... it just makes me want to mix it with other things. This of course got me thinking. Ever since I made lamb kebabs marinated in pomegranate molasses this summer, it's become one of our favourite meals.
Given that it's winter though, and currently 23 degrees F outside it's not exactly grilling weather. Nor is it the kind of weather that makes you crave light summery foods. Still, I was pretty sure I could take the sweet, citrusy, floral flavors of the kebabs and intensify them to make a tagine that could fend off the calorie burning chill while reminding us of our favourite summer dish.
When cooked in a traditional tagine, the steam circulating through the conical lid helps gently cook the meat without adding a lot of braising liquid which makes for a rich unctuous sauce (a dutch oven works fine as well). I abandoned any notion of what flavors "should" be in a tagine and just layered the flavors until they were too my liking.
I started by browning the lamb to create a thick layer of fond on the bottom of the pot, which served as my base. Then I caramelized onions, ginger and a preserved Meyer lemon. This combo alone smelled fantastic, but I wanted to add a bit more depth and complexity, so in went some Vietnamese cinnamon and coriander seeds. For the liquid I added a small bottle of POM. As I mentioned before, pure pomegranate juice is really tart, so I finished the braising liquid with some dates for sweetness.
Two hours at a low temperature yielded melty tender lamb and a bright, rich sauce that was awesome on a fluffy bed of couscous.
- Generously salt and pepper the lamb. Heat a tagine or dutch oven over medium heat until very hot. Add some olive oil and then the lamb. Do not disturb until nice and brown on one side. Use tongs to flip and brown the other side. Transfer to a plate and set aside.
- Lower oven rack to lower middle position and preheat to 275 degrees F.
- Add the onions, minced ginger and preserved lemon to the pan and saute for about 20 minutes. Add the cinnamon sticks and coriander seeds and continue caramelizing the onions another 10 minutes. Return the lamb to the pot, add the POM and dates. Bring to a boil and salt to taste.
- Cover and place in the oven. Braise for 1 1/2 hours or until the lamb is fork tender. Serve with cous cous.