Bought a Tagine. Now What?
January 10, 2008 5:07 AM   Subscribe

So, I have just purchased this tagine, and I've got a few questions (and wouldn't mind a recipe or three either)...

The questions:

1) Glazed interior means I don't have to "season" it, as there are no pores open for absorption, correct?

2) I don't own a heat diffuser, but I do own a cast iron skillet wide enough to accommodate the tagine without the skillet walls touching the tagine sides. Will that do the job? Am I better off using my cast iron grill pan, which is ridged and would provide less direct contact and no unwanted indirect heat (as the walls of the skillet would)?

3) Most of the recipes I've read are for the range-top tagine, but most tend to assume you're not using an actual tagine, just cooking in the tagine style (I know the word means both the vessel and the cooking style). Is non-metal glazed pottery of this sort strong enough to allow for range-top cooking (i.e., adding enough heat to bring its contents to a steady simmer)? Did I accidentally buy a decorative/serving tagine instead?

4) Re: beef/pork/lamb... I'm assuming that since you don't brown meats in the tagine (under the broiler at the end of tagine cooking seems to be the accepted method to add color and caramelization), you're going to use some liquid and typically use a stew meat (that is to say, really lean meat won't get as tender as I'd like, and meat with a fat cap isn't as awesome if you can't run a sear first). Is this a fair assumption?

5) I've read that the cone should stay cool/cold to the touch during cooking (apparently something in the whole 3000 year old thermodynamics of the thing). This seems a little counterintuitive if you're leaving the cone on top as you allow the meat to stew. I'm assuming that you cook cone-off until you reach a simmer, then reduce heat some, pop the cone top on and let it stew until everything is tasty. Am I missing something here? Shouldn't the cone start to get hot too? Maybe I missed some context in what I read, or maybe my assumption as to the use of this thing is off-base. Let me know.

6) Anything else I should know? I'm interested in getting the technique right first, then I can mess around with ingredients from there.

Recipes: Difficulty is no olives, no mushrooms. Thanks in advance.
posted by peacecorn to Food & Drink (10 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
By the way, I did see this thread for recipes.
posted by peacecorn at 5:21 AM on January 10, 2008

s non-metal glazed pottery of this sort strong enough to allow for range-top cooking (i.e., adding enough heat to bring its contents to a steady simmer)?

No...the pottery will crack.
posted by desuetude at 6:12 AM on January 10, 2008

No, the cone will not stay cold. At least, mine doesn't. Please be careful!

I always find Epicurious good for these things, but my favourite Tagine recipe is this this one, though not strictly authentic, absolutely gorgeous. Enjoy.

Nigella's Tagine and I'd put this with it Herb Couscous
posted by Blacksun at 6:39 AM on January 10, 2008

No...the pottery will crack.

Well, it says right in the description that it's safe for stovetop cooking with a heat diffuser.
posted by Caviar at 6:43 AM on January 10, 2008

I have been using my tagine--mine is by le creuset--for years exclusively on stovetop, no diffuser because the base is cast iron and i can turn the electric heat very low.

i also use the tagine top--glazed ceramic like yours--with a cast aluminium wok by berendes

with both cases, the sloping sides of the pan form a seal with the tagine top, the cone. if you use a straight sided skillet of the same diameter as the base of the cone, there wouldn't be a sufficient seal, there'd be spatter, and a potential wobble.

yes, you can grasp the top of the cone and it is never hot!

i have found that searing meats and/or vegetables first, then covering and reducing heat to barest simmer is best.

very little need for adding liquids throughout the cooking. the condensate really does return to the pot rather than cling to it as in a standard horizontal potlid. my family prefer "drier" stews to soupy ones.

in my use of it, the main principle regarding cooking with this pot has been to use less liquids and to reduce heat to barest simmer. also, my interest hasnt been to recreate only authentic moroccan dishes. i have found it wonderful for italian and generally mediterranean dishes, the minor adaptation being a reduction in added liquids.

finally, the volume of food you can have gently simmering away under a tagine top is smaller than the circumference would have you think. when i cook stew for more than 4 people-- i opt for a dutch oven.
posted by subatomiczoo at 7:06 AM on January 10, 2008

That tagine has sort of a weird design. All the ones we use in Morocco have a flat bottom, which seems to me like it would disperse the heat better.

Anyway, it does seem more like a serving tagine, even though the description says otherwise. As for cooking in it, this may kill some people's romantic notions, but most tagines (the food) aren't cooked for the whole time in the tagine (the cooking utensil). They use pressure cookers to do most of it, then arrange the dish nicely in the tagine - for example, potatoes/carrots on the bottom, chicken pieces over that, and preserved lemons and olives on the top. Then it's cooked for a bit more on the stovetop. Right smack on the gas burner, no heat diffuser. The conical top gets warm, but not too hot to touch.

I have seen tagines cooked in the tagine (this is getting ridiculous, ha) - but that was normally at roadside stands on something called a mizmar (not the musical instrument) - a traditional holder for charcoal. Also up in the mountains where they didn't have access to gas bottles.

I've never seen anyone stick a tagine (sans top) under a broiler - but unless you're shooting for strict authenticity, I say go ahead. And this may be just me, but I kind of feel like a seasoned tagine adds something to the flavor of the food.

If you want to email me, I can send you links to some recipes I've used and books that were useful.
posted by Liosliath at 7:45 AM on January 10, 2008

1. You don't have to season it, but IMO: the unglazed interiors are much better than the glazed. They absorb a lot of condensation, which keeps the tagine from crossing the line between moist and juicy stew to giant soupy mess.

2. I don't use a heat diffuser, and the owner of Kalustyan's assured me that I didn't need to, because when I got my tagine I was terrified of cracking it. (BTW, make sure you get some Ras El-Hanout spice mix; if you don't have it locally, you can buy it from their website. Ooh, and preserved lemons.)

3. Nope, that's a cooking tagine according to the sur la table site.

4. I generally put the meat into the tagine after I've cooked the onions a bit and before I add the veggies (you can remove it and then add the veggies and then put the meat back in once you're done doing this, if you want). This doesn't necessarily brown it per se, but it does put a bit of a seal on it. And the tagine will definitely come to a simmer after a good long while. Just don't rush it. (And don't add anything cold to it once you've heated it up.)

5. With my tagine, the cone heats up quite a bit. And you should put the cone on once you've put everything into the tagine. I don't take the top off until the end, where I'll cook it cone-less if I think there's too much liquid.

I don't recommend putting the tagine under the broiler. I think the heat would be too intense.

This is considered a sort-of Bible for tagine cooking. There used to be an amazing and huge thread on Epicurious, with answers from Wolfert herself, about tagines. I can't find it anymore.
posted by veronica sawyer at 10:52 AM on January 10, 2008

I have a traditional clay tagine and I use it on the stove with a diffuser. I was afraid it would crack when I first bought it so I did a lot googling and settled on the following advice:

1) temper the tagine before you cook in it for the first time (I can't remember what I did exactly, but if you google you'll find advice for that)
2) soak the clay bottom for an hour before you use it each and every time you use it
3) always use a diffuser
4) lay down a layer of veggies (sliced carrots, onions, whatever) as a bed for fish, if you're cooking fish

You can find two recipes I make a lot here (self-link).
posted by idest at 11:42 AM on January 10, 2008

man i just saw this thing on the travel channel, then forgot, and had the name of it stuck in my head all last night, and couldn't remember for the life of me what the heck it was! thanks lol.
posted by Soulbee at 12:02 PM on January 10, 2008

Married to a Moroccan and got the whole course on tagine-making. I usually brown the meat in olive oil in the tagine, season it, put the veggies on top, season some more and leave it to cook about an hour. Make sure you have a real tagine for cooking, not the kind that is for display purposes only. I have some recipes here:
posted by kenzi23 at 7:52 PM on January 10, 2008

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