Moroccan Lamb

If my mom ever cooked anything special for the new year, I really don’t remember it. The first time I recall hearing about good luck New Year’s foods was when I was in the Navy. Working with lots of guys from down south, Hoppin’ John entered my vocabulary. As I got older and moved around the country, more traditions arrived.

When I lived at Lake Tahoe, working for the Hyatt, I worked with a lot of Mexicans. They made tamales and brought them in for everyone to share. Somewhere, I remember King Cake – that was probably Boston. Black-eyed peas and cornbread followed me around the USofA, and landing in Pennsylvania, it became Pork and Sauerkraut. Victor would divorce me if I ever made pork and sauerkraut – so much for good luck.

After years in the restaurant and hotel business, the very last day I want to be out is New Years Eve. It’s even worse than Mother’s Day. I don’t know if you can even imagine the horror of delivering pizzas on such a night, or dealing with drunks throwing glasses in the general vicinity of a casino fireplace. We were still finding shards of glass for weeks after that one…

Other than a few small house parties, First Night in Boston was probably the most fun of the New Year festivities I’ve experienced. Definitely the most unique. Outdoors in a cold, snowy Boston with performances ranging from classical to contemporary in a score or more different venues. And the crowds were relatively well-behaved.

We had bullets raining down on us when we lived in San Leandro – why people think it’s a good idea to shoot guns into the air boggles my mind. We flew across the country on New Year’s Eve 1999 to bring in the year 2000 with Victor’s family – on a near-empty flight in deserted airports. And being locked out of Times Square after seeing The Producers with Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick less than a half-block away was pretty aggravating. We ended up heading back to our hotel and had a champagne toast with the bartender, the Beverage Manager, and a couple from Norway as the clock struck twelve.

Normally, I eschew crowds – especially the throngs out on a New Year’s Eve – but I do think I’d like to ring in the new year in a European city, Rome, London, Paris, Florence, Barcelona… I dunno… Outdoors in a huge plaza, somewhere – and within walking distance of wherever we were staying. The biggest stipulation being within walking distance of where we would be staying. I wouldn’t want to have to deal with any sort of transportation. And I could definitely envision a moonlit walk through Paris at 3am… Maybe next year… ::sigh::

Tonight, our idea of celebrating the New Year is a bit of bubbly and a lamb dish that was my take on a  Sephardic and Middle Eastern Jewish Moroccan recipe. My knowledge of Middle Eastern Jewish cuisine is pretty non-existent, but I can read a recipe and let the flavors speak to me as I go down the list.

The original recipe uses lamb shanks and is from New York Shuk. It includes a spiced chutney they call Moroccan Jewish Tanzeya. I added a lot of spices and used a boned leg of lamb I cut into cubes, marinating the meat overnight in the spices and some port.

Moroccan Jewish Tanzeya

adapted from New York Shuk

  • 1 cup dried cranberries
  • 1 cup dried apricots
  • 1 cup quartered dried figs
  • 1 cup raisins
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp cardamom
  • 1/4 tsp allspice
  • Pinch of dried chile flakes
  • Pinch of salt

In a wide, shallow saucepan, combine cranberries, apricots, figs and raisins. Add 1 cup hot water and 1 cup port, and allow to rest for 15 minutes.

Add sugar and remaining ingredients. Place over high heat and bring to a boil. Cook, stirring, for 5 minutes. Reduce heat to low and simmer, uncovered, until water has almost completely evaporated, 45 minutes to 1 hour.

Allow mixture to cool; if desired, it may be covered and refrigerated for up to 2 weeks.

Lamb with Caramelized Onions

adapted from New York Shuk

  • 2  lbs lamb leg, cut into cubes
  • 2 tsp Ras El Hanout
  • salt and pepper
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2 cup port
  • 2 onions, sliced thin
  • 1 cup tanzeya
  • toasted blanched almonds for garnish

Cut lamb into cubes. place in bowl with port, spices, and olive oil. Let marinate overnight.

In an oven-proof braising pan or casserole, brown lamb. Remove from pan and set aside.

Add sliced onions and slowly cooked until they begin to lightly brown. Add 1/2 cup port and 1/2 cup water to the pan, cover, and simmer about 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, preheat oven to 275°F.

Add lamb to onions, mix well, and cover. Place in oven for about 2 hours.

Remove from oven and stir in 1 cup tanzeya. Mix well.

Cover and return to oven for another 15 or so minutes.

Serve over saffron rice.

While I’m not sure what the original was supposed to taste like, my rendition seriously rocked the casbah! It was sweet, it was moderately spicy, the lamb was fork-tender. Everything about it was good.

We had it over a simple saffron rice – onion sautéed in butter, and then chicken broth and a pinch of saffron along with a cup of rice.

And later, some cookies and the rest of the champagne while watching That’s Entertainment on Turner Classic Movies.

So… we leave you with Robert Burns and Auld Lang Syne. And if you scroll down to the end, there’s a video of Guy Lombardo playing it. Sing along. All of the verses. And we’ll tak’ a cup o’ kindness yet, for auld lang syne.


Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
and never brought to mind?
Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
and auld lang syne?

For auld lang syne, my jo,
for auld lang syne,
we’ll tak’ a cup o’ kindness yet,
for auld lang syne.

And surely ye’ll be your pint-stoup!
and surely I’ll be mine!
And we’ll tak’ a cup o’ kindness yet,
for auld lang syne.


We twa hae run about the braes,
and pou’d the gowans fine;
But we’ve wander’d mony a weary fit,
sin’ auld lang syne.


We twa hae paidl’d in the burn,
frae morning sun till dine;
But seas between us braid hae roar’d
sin’ auld lang syne.


And there’s a hand, my trusty fiere!
and gie’s a hand o’ thine!
And we’ll tak’ a right gude-willie waught,
for auld lang syne.