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Of Lamb and Beans

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The first version of cassoulet I ever tasted was made with lamb, and that combination of flavors was so pleasing to me that I've done a bunch of variations, including my favoritest-forever fullbore cassoulet made with Peruano beans and lamb neck (recipe gladly emailed on request - no secrets here!). The other night I'd just gotten a nice big leg of lamb from How's, and it came with its very large shank portion semi-detached, so it occurred to me that this would be a good time to try some interesting-looking beans I'd gotten from Surfas, called Tongues of Fire. I thought it might be nice to cook the beans Tuscan-style, overnight in a very slow oven with some seasonings and olive oil, and bury the shank in there to cook along with them. So I assembled:

1 great big lamb shank (about 1 1/2 lb)

1 yellow onion, chopped coarsely

2 Anaheim peppers, deseeded and chopped (should really have peeled them)

2 cloves garlic, peeled and partly crushed

1 lb. dried beans

Herbes de Provence, great big pinch

1/4 cup olive oil

water to cover by 3"

I mixed up the beans, vegetables and dried herbs and buried the lamb shank under all this in my oval enameled iron pot, poured the olive oil evenly over everything, then poured in the water. I covered the pot and put it in the middle of the oven, turned it on to 250o, had another glass of wine and went to bed.

The next day I pulled the pot out and set it aside to cool down until the contents could be handled, by which time the beans (which become a rich earthy dark reddish brown) were perfect, the lamb falling off the bone and the house smelled richly of garlic (and if you would have used the word "reeked" in there you might want to omit the garlic). I shredded the meat, then stirred in a few pinches of salt until it tasted right, and stuck the pot in the fridge. That night, a couple of hours before suppertime, I cooked six assorted fresh sausages (brats, sweet Italian, hot Italian in this case) on the gas grill until they were just firm and browning, cut them into 2" chunks and buried these in the beans. I then sprinkled a good layer of panko crumbs on top and put the pot uncovered into a 350o oven. After about 1 1/2 hours it was all bubbling nicely and a little crunchy on top. I broke the top up with a spoon and sorta poked it down into the beans, then put the pot on the hot tray and made a salad and poured the wine.

This is the kind of thing that can make cooking so much fun...

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  1. man, I am really jealous - I guess I have to visit the butcher tomorrow. Though I do like it with duck too, and I do have a couple of legs lying around...

    1. Jealous with a capital J, for sure.

      I have a chuck roast defrosting in the fridge. Do you think I could do a beef cassoulet? I know it's not the same, but it's one of those "use it or lose it" situations.

      Are you sure you mean two cloves and not two bulbs? I can't imagine that two cloves would be enough for a garlic fiend such as myself.

      What did you think of the tongues of fire? If you loved them, I'll be "forced" to go to Surfas.

      1. Yum. I'm putting on your lamb and beans tonight. For the first time ever, I'm hoping tomorrow isn't sunny and bright. Now that says something about a recipe! I couldn't figure out how to email you to request your fav cassoulet recipe, but would love to see it. I'm at louella at earthlink dot net. Thanks!

        1. Would also love to see the cassoulet recipe. I'm at linda dot mcintyre at gmail dot com.

          I just ate lunch and, after reading this post, I'm already hungry again!

          1. Wow! This woke me up to a heavenly smell this morning (when I snitched a little bowl for breakfast--couldn't help myself). Then, after two hours of bubbling away tonight (didn't add the sausages because there was already plenty of meat for my taste), it came together as something even more extraordinary. Luscious smooth beans, succulent meat, and a sauce that's spoon-licking good. And soooo easy. Thank you, Will Owen!!