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Moroccan Short Rib Tagine with Spiced Couscous (Ras el Hanout)

A prized Moroccan blend of more than a dozen spices, ras el hanout takes its name from an Arabic phrase that can be loosely translated as “top of the shop,” meaning the very best a spice merchant has to offer. Ras el hanout enhances this slow-simmered short rib tagine with a rich, spicy aroma and deep, complex flavors. Accompany the stew with spiced couscous, seasoned with turmeric and brightened with citrus.

Ingredients:

  • 3 Tbs. ras el hanout
  • 1 Tbs. sweet paprika
  • 1 tsp. salt, plus more, to taste
  • 1 tsp. freshly ground pepper, plus more, to taste
  • 3 lb. short ribs, cut into serving pieces, external fat trimmed to 1/4 inch
  • 2 Tbs. olive oil
  • 1/2 large yellow onion, diced
  • 2 carrots, peeled and diced
  • 1 cup cubed peeled butternut squash
  • 4 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1/2 cup dry red wine, such as Syrah
  • 1 cup canned diced tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup beef or chicken broth, plus more, as needed
  • 1 Tbs. honey (optional)

For the spiced couscous:

  • 2 cups couscous
  • 2 Tbs. olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp. ground turmeric
  • 1/2 tsp. kosher salt, plus more, to taste
  • 1/4 cup dried currants
  • 1 tsp. finely grated orange zest
  • 2 Tbs. fresh lemon juice
  • Freshly ground pepper, to taste

Directions:

In a small bowl, stir together the ras el hanout, paprika, the 1 tsp. salt and 1 tsp. pepper. Rub the mixture over the short ribs, coating them evenly. Let stand at room temperature for 30 to 60 minutes.

Preheat an oven to 350°F.

Heat a large, heavy fry pan over medium heat. Pour in the olive oil and heat until the surface shimmers. Add the short ribs and brown on all sides, about 8 minutes total. Transfer to a plate.

Pour off all but 2 Tbs. of the fat in the pan. Add the onion, carrots, squash and garlic and cook, stirring often, until the onion begins to brown, 3 to 5 minutes. Add the wine, stirring to scrape up the browned bits from the pan bottom. Add the tomatoes and the 1/2 cup stock.

Transfer the mixture to a tagine. Add the short ribs, pushing them down into the vegetables. Cover the tagine, transfer to the oven and bake until the meat is very tender, about 2 1/2 hours.

Meanwhile, prepare the spiced couscous: Rinse the couscous in a fine-mesh sieve under cold running water. Set aside to drain for 15 minutes.

Fill the bottom compartment of the couscoussiere halfway with water, making sure the water does not touch the steam tray above. Set over medium-high heat and bring to a boil. Spread the couscous out on a baking sheet and aerate by lightly rubbing the clumps between your palms and raking your fingers through the couscous.

Line the steam tray with a piece of cheesecloth. Brush the cheesecloth with 1 Tbs. of the olive oil. Place the couscous on the cheesecloth. Cover the couscoussiere and steam for 20 minutes. Again, spread the couscous out on a baking sheet. In a small bowl, whisk together the remaining 1 Tbs. olive oil, 1/4 cup cold water, the turmeric and the 1/2 tsp. salt. Sprinkle the liquid over the couscous and aerate with your fingers, breaking up any lumps.

Make sure there is still water in the lower compartment, then return the couscous to the lined steam tray. Cover and steam for 15 to 20 minutes. Transfer the couscous to a serving bowl. Using a spoon, gently fold in the currants, orange zest and lemon juice, and season with salt and pepper. Cover with aluminum foil and let stand for 10 minutes before serving.

Transfer the short ribs to a plate and cover with aluminum foil. Let the sauce cool for 5 minutes, then skim the fat off the surface. If the sauce is too thick, stir in more stock, 2 Tbs. at a time. Stir in the honey, and adjust the seasonings with salt and pepper.

Divide the spiced couscous among warmed bowls. Top with the short ribs and sauce and serve immediately. Serves 4 to 6.

Adapted from a recipe by Williams-Sonoma.