Lamb cassoulet
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Lamb cassoulet

A simple meal with a gourmet flair

Lamb cassoulet (Photo by Jessica Grann)
Lamb cassoulet (Photo by Jessica Grann)

If you’ve ever wanted to make a meal that whispered, “I love you,” I suggest this recipe for cassoulet.

Cassoulet is French country cooking at its finest. It’s simple food with fairly basic ingredients like meat, white beans and herbs.

As a kosher cook — who was not raised keeping kosher — it’s been my mission in the kitchen to replicate the best meals I’ve experienced across the globe and to make them accessible for myself and for my readers.

Cassoulet is traditionally made with pork and sausage, but I started thinking about the flavors and herbs used and realized that lamb would be the perfect meat to reproduce this southern French staple.

The lamb is seared, then slowly braised in the pot of beans with white wine and chicken broth until the meat is ready to fall off the bone. Choose a good quality dry white wine for this meal. You will use a portion for cooking but have several glasses left in the bottle to enjoy with your meal.

This recipe takes about 25 minutes to prep. Although it’s considered a simple meal, this is as gourmet as it gets in the flavor department and definitely worthy of Shabbat or a festive celebration.

Lamb cassoulet
Serves 4

Ingredients:
4 lamb shanks
¼ cup olive oil
1 large onion, diced
1½ cups celery, sliced thinly
2 large carrots, peeled and diced
4 large garlic cloves, peeled and sliced
1 cup dry white wine
2 cups chicken stock
3 cans cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
2 bay leaves
Kosher salt
Coarse black pepper
2 bay leaves
2 sprigs of fresh rosemary
5 sprigs of fresh thyme

To prepare this recipe, you need a heavy-bottomed pot with a tight-fitting lid. Use a Dutch oven if you have one.

I suggest using lamb shanks for this recipe, but I have also used lamb labeled “Scotch roast” and it came out well. The important thing is that the lamb is on the bone. The bone marrow adds flavor and fat to the beans, which is what makes this meal taste heavenly.

Sear the lamb on both sides (Photo by Jessica Grann)

The meat should be seared at room temperature, so remove the lamb from the refrigerator an hour before you plan to cook. Blot each piece with a paper towel, sprinkle both sides with coarse kosher salt and set the lamb on a tray to rest.

Prepare the vegetables as noted, rinse and drain the beans and measure the wine and chicken stock.
Warm the olive oil over medium heat and sear the lamb for 5 minutes per side.

Once seared on both sides, remove the lamb from the pot and set it aside.

Add the onion, celery and carrot (this mixture is called a mirepoix) to the olive oil remaining in the pot and sauté for 12-15 minutes in the olive oil and lamb fat, stirring occasionally.

Add the sliced garlic and sauté for an additional 2-3 minutes.

Add the wine and cook for a minute or two, using a wooden spoon to scrape any browned bits from the bottom of the pot, and allow the alcohol to dissipate.

Turn off the flame and set the oven to 325 F.

Pour the chicken broth into the pot and gently stir in the rinsed cannellini beans.

Nestle the lamb into the cannellini beans, then add seasoning and herbs (Photo by Jessica Grann)
Nestle the lamb shanks into the bean mixture and sprinkle with a half-teaspoon of salt and coarsely ground black pepper to taste. Tie a bouquet of herbs with kitchen string, or just place the bunch of herbs in the pot on top of the beans.

Bake for 90 minutes.

Remove the lid and check the meat with a fork. It should be very tender. If it is a little tough, put the lid back on and return the pot to the oven for 15-20 minutes. Let the pot rest covered for a half-hour before serving.

Remove the herb bouquet and plate the beans. Serve one lamb shank per person.

Enjoy and bless your hands! PJC

Jessica Grann is a home chef living in Pittsburgh.

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