Beef Up Pot Roast With Ras-El-Hanout, the Moroccan Spice Mix

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Ras-el-hanout—a Moroccan spice blend—works magic in this slow-cooked pot roast, which braises with a pierced, whole lemon. Jennifer Olvera

I hated pot roast when I was young, in no small part because I ended up with gristle more than once. And you know how it is with kids—one and done. So, I didn't gravitate toward making it for some time. When I finally did, I decided to take a different tack.

Multi-layered and heady without being heavy, Moroccan cuisine is a natural for fragrant fall meals. And, because of its bold, spice-heavy nature, heartier proteins, such as mutton and beef, work particularly well. I chose the latter to make this crowd-pleasing pot roast (that hunk of beef in the grocery store looked way too good to pass up).

This recipe calls for ras-el-hanout, a complex North African spice blend with cinnamon, coriander seeds, and much more. Like curry, its components vary. If you're feeling ambitious and are willing to invest in the ingredients, by all means make your own—we have a recipe here. Otherwise, brands such as McCormick sell ras-el-hanout, which means you can find it on most grocery store shelves.

It's important to build the flavors for this slow-cooked dish, beginning with properly browned meat. Next, aromatics like onion, carrots and celery come into play. I prepare a tomato braising liquid and spike it with a lemony puree made with mint, paprika, and the ras-el-hanout. After a slow-and-low braise in the oven—first covered, then uncovered—it's served with tart, dried cherry-specked Israeli couscous that's brightened with a touch of lemon zest.

The nice thing about this dish is the meat can be prepared ahead. In fact, it'll be all the better for it. What's more, the solidified fat from the sauce is easiest to remove when cold. To reheat it, place it, covered, in a preheated, 350°F oven for 25 to 30 minutes.