Hot From The Kettle ™: Marrakech, by way of Bloomfield Avenue

by Melody Kettle

On a trip to southern Spain I balked at an opportunity to go to Morocco. I was cautioned that a day trip to Tangier, via Algeciras ferry, would be like spending the day in Tijuana and claiming to have been to Mexico. So, I put down Brion Gysin’s The Process, forgot the Joujouka Pipes, and drove to Gibraltar instead.

When I returned to our fair Montclair, I felt a bit unfulfilled. In an attempt to satisfy my North African gastronomic curiosities, I decided to dine at Montclair’s Moroccan restaurant, Marrakech, 708 Bloomflield Avenue.

I was pleasantly surprised; Marrakech is an exotic, romantic, colorful and somewhat decadent space, filled with subtle Moroccan music, gracious hospitality, and attentive service. In the middle of the afternoon, and with no wine at all, I was bit swept away. It was over this meal where I fell deeply in love with my most coveted condiment, the incredibly intense, slow burning, harissa, which has been a pantry staple ever since. My entree soon followed. I enjoyed a remarkably fragrant, surprisingly fresh and warmly satisfying bouillabaisse. After the entree, traditional mint tea was served – a suiting finale of fragrance.

Marrakech is owned and operated by the Chbihi family, originally from Casablanca, Morocco. Brothers, Simon and Said, run the front of the restaurant, while their parents, Abdu and Malika, create masterful Moroccan fare. Marrakech’s a la carte menu features traditional Moroccan selections, such as Zaalouk, eggplant cooked with tomatoes, garlic and olive oil, and Couscous Marocain Traditionel. Reflective of Morocco’s French influence, Marrakech also offers dishes such as Saumon avec Sauce Provencale, priced at a very reasonable $16.95 (not to mention the lunch portion offered at $12.95), and Carnard avec Sauce de Figue at $19.95( lunch $14.95).

On my most recent visit to Marrakech I was joined by food blogger and founder of Off The Broiler, Jason Perlow. When we arrived, we were welcomed into the lounge room by Simon and Malika, and were graciously seated. We then had the opportunity to observe Malika prepare Lamb Tangine with Honey, Almonds, and Prunes.

Watch the video to see how it’s done:

Here’s the recipe:
For the prunes:
1/2 cup orange blossom water
2 cinnamon sticks
2 tsp. black pepper
2 tsp. ground ginger
1 tsp. salt
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 – 3 Tbsp. honey (adjust to taste)
2 cups dried prunes (also excellent with raisins or apricots)

For the lamb:
3 lbs. of boneless lamb leg (marinated at least one hour in minced garlic)
1 tsp. white pepper
1 tsp. ground ginger
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. cumin
Pinch Moroccan saffron or crystallized (may substitute ½ tsp Turmeric)
2 medium onions, finely chopped
1 1/2 cups almonds, whole and blanched
2 Tbsp honey

For traditional execution use a tangine. Combine ingredients for prunes in tangine and let cook for about 30 minutes.
Place marinated lamb in tagine add spices, cover and allow to cook slow and low for 90 minutes.

Marrakech is a BYOB. Have you been to Marrakech? In Montclair, or in Morocco? Is Tangier anything like Tijuana?

*Article and video originally published on Baristanet.