As I mentioned in my last post, I’m enamored with the cookbook, Heirloom Beans. In perusing the recipes, I had to resist bookmarking every other page. Given the cold winter days we’re experiencing in San Francisco right now, somehow a lamb stew seemed to make the most sense, and I knew this meant I could break out the new Le Creuset. I’m embarrassed to admit, however, after all my excitement for cooking with heirloom beans I ended up using cannellini beans that I already had in my pantry. (Hey, I’m trying to honor my recent vow to use up the stores I already have.) So, I can’t really vouch for the wonder of flageolet beans, although I swear the next time around I will use the beans according to the recipe. After all, what’s better than an excuse to head down to Bi-Rite? (Even more ridiculous is I bought the lamb at Bi-Rite, but didn’t realize they sold Rancho Gordo beans there at the time. Argh!)
Steve Sando has made me reconsider the non-soaking methods of cooking beans. He is a strong proponent of soaking the beans for even an hour before cooking, but recommends 2-6 hours of soaking. Apparently this helps the beans keep their shape, and I figure this guy knows his stuff. I soaked the beans for 5 hours and was very happy with the results. I recommend making this recipe on a weekend snowy/rainy day. First thing in the morning, throw the beans in cold water to soak, catch up on the news and your laundry, start the simmering in the early afternoon, and you’ll be eating a fabulous early dinner.
I usually associate lamb with rosemary or mint, but I was looking forward to trying this recipe since it calls for a cilantro & lemon relish. Intriguing! I wasn’t disappointed. I also sauteed some chopped Swiss chard with shallot and garlic to serve on the side, but ended up adding it right in along with everything else. Since I normally squeeze a touch of lemon on sauteed chard anyway, the flavor profile fit right in with the relish.
Prather Ranch Spring Lamb with Flageolets and Fay’s Relish
2 Tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more if needed
2 pounds bone-in lamb shoulder steaks
Salt and freshly ground pepper
2 small carrots, peeled and chopped
1 celery stalk, chopped
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves
1 pound flageolet beans, rinsed thoroughly and soaked 2-6 hours (can also substitute with cellini or runner cannellini beans)
1. In large Dutch oven or other heavy pot over medium-high heat, warm the olive oil. Season the lamb generously with salt and pepper. Working in batches if necessary, add the lamb to the pot and cook, turning once, until well browned on both sides, about 3 minutes per side. Remove from plate.
2. Reduce the heat to medium and add the carrots, celery, onion and garlic and stir to scrape up the browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Add more oil if the vegetables stick and splash of water to help release the browned bits.
3. Add the beans and their soaking water to the pot. bring to a boil, skimming off any impurities that rise the top, and cook for 5 minutes. Reduce the heat to low and simmer slowly until the beans and lamb are tender, 1 1/2 to 2 hours.
Fay’s Relish Ingredients:
1 large bunch of cilantro, chopped
1 medium shallot, minced
2 garlic cloves, minced
Grated zest of 1 lemon
Juice of 1/2 lemon
1 Tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
To make the relish: In a small bowl, stir together the cilantro, shallot, garlic, lemon zest and juice, and olive oil.
Remove the lamb from the pot and cut into bite-sized pieces, trimming off excess fat and removing the bones. If you prefer a thicker stew, transfer 1 cup of beans and broth to a blender or food processor and puree until smooth and return to the pot. Return the lamb to the pot, stir and season to taste with salt and pepper. Cook for an additional 10 minutes and adjust the seasonings.
Serve in warmed shallow bowls and garnish with the relish.
For the sauteed Swiss chard:
1 bunch Swiss chard, thoroughly cleaned, de-stemmed and leaves cut into small pieces
1 shallot, minced
1 garlic clove, minced
1 Tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
2-3 Tablespoons water
Salt and pepper
Splash of fresh lemon juice
Directions: Heat olive oil in large frying pan over medium-high heat. Saute the shallot and garlic briefly, 1-2 minutes, stirring constantly. Mix in the chard well into the oil and stir for 1-2 minutes. Add the water, cover, and cook for 6-8 minutes until softened, but still bright, dark green. When cooked, remove from heat and push chard to the side, squeezing and pouring out excess water. Season well with salt and pepper and a splash of lemon juice. Serve on the side or mix into serving bowls of stew.