Fennel, Merguez, and Preserved Meyer Lemon Braise

By • January 25, 2013 6 Comments

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Author Notes: This dish is Tunisian-inspired, with admittedly tentative moorings to tradition. All the ingredients are roasted together (with the exception of the couscous), leading to
a balanced marriage of flavors. The resulting vegetables are soft, and seasoned with
pan juices. The finished sauce is complex and spiced, and the couscous downy, and
ever so slightly flavored with the good olive oil I stirred into it.
Cristina Sciarra

Serves 4

  • 4 cups chicken stock (homemade if possible)
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1 nub of fresh ginger
  • 1 tablespoon harissa
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 fennel bulb
  • 1 white onion
  • 1 medium carrot
  • 4-6 merguez sausages
  • 1/2 cup gem-green olives
  • 1 14-ounce can chickpeas
  • 1 whole preserved Meyer lemon, quartered
  • 1 1/2 cups couscous
  • Sea salt
  • Olive oil
  1. Heat the oven to 350F. On the stovetop, heat the chicken stock. Let it come to a simmer as you prepare the rest of the ingredients.
  2. Everything goes into the same casserole dish: run the garlic cloves and the ginger through a microplane grater, so they both come out as paste. (For the ginger, you want about 1 tablespoon of 'ginger paste.') Add the harissa, the cumin, the cinnamon, and the bay leaf.
  3. After removing the stalks and the outer layer, roughly chop the fennel, and add the pieces to the casserole. (If you like, save the fennel fronds for garnish.) Cut the onion lengthwise, and thinly slice both halves. Peel and halve the carrot, and then cut each half into three somewhat even pieces. (You want each carrot piece to cook at more or less at the same rate.) Move all the vegetables to the casserole dish, along with the merguez sausages (you can poke each sausage all over with a knife tip, so the skin doesn't pop in the oven), the green olives, and the chickpeas (rinse the can goop off first). Add the preserved Meyer lemon wedges to the casserole too, making sure to pick off the seeds, if you haven't already.
  4. The chicken stock should be hot by now; pour it over the casserole dish. Use a spoon to mix the ingredients a bit, to integrate the garlic, ginger, harissa, cumin, and cinnamon into the broth. You want there to be enough broth so that the ingredients are 2/3 of the way covered. (If you find this isn't the case, you can add extra stock, or even water, so that it is.) Now move the casserole to the oven. Let everything cook together for 1 hour.
  5. While the casserole is in the oven, make the couscous. (I used Tunisian couscous, but it's up to you. You could even use another grain, like quinoa.) I brought 2 heaping cups of water to a boil, then turned off the heat and added my couscous. Secure the lid on top of the pot, and let the grain sit for 8-10 minutes. Lift off the lid-- the water should be dissolved and the couscous ready. Stir in 1-2 tablespoons of good quality olive oil (for flavor, and so the grains won't stick), and salt to taste. You can leave the couscous on the stovetop, covered, until you're ready to serve.
  6. After 1 hour, remove the casserole from the oven. The colors should have intensified, and the non-submerged bits of sausage and vegetable will look wrinkled and roasty.
  7. (Carefully) separate the solids from the juices (it's hot!). The solids can hang out for a second, while you move the juices to a wide, flat pan. Turn the range to medium high, and cook the juices until reduced by 1/2. The sauce should be thicken a little, and be really flavorful. Adjust the seasonings as you see fit. (With the salt from the preserved lemons, I didn't need to add any seasonings, but use your best judgment.)
  8. Now plate everything together: Divide the couscous among the plates. Pile the vegetables, and 1-2 merguez sausages per person on top. Finish with a generous pour of the sauce. Enjoy hot.

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