At Russell House Tavern, cassoulet, the French bean and meat stew, is made with lamb instead of the more traditional pork and duck confit. That’s because Michael Scelfo is a spokesperson for the American Lamb Board. His rustic dish might include lamb shanks, shoulder blade chops, and ground lamb sausage for its assertiveness. Bacon delivers “the nuggets of fat and intense flavor the dish needs for richness and texture,” says the Cambridge chef. Start the cassoulet two days ahead by soaking the beans the first night. Scelfo recommends serving the dish family-style with crusty bread and the same wine used in the dish, “if you haven’t already finished it off waiting for the cassoulet to cook.”
|3||tablespoons canola oil|
|2||pounds lamb shanks|
|1||pound lamb shoulder blade chops|
|Salt and pepper, to taste|
|1||large onion, chopped|
|1||large carrot, chopped|
|1||stalk celery, chopped|
|3||cloves garlic, finely chopped|
|1||pound dried white beans, such as cannellini or Great Northern, soaked overnight and drained|
|2||cups dry red wine|
|6||sprigs fresh thyme|
|3||sprigs fresh rosemary|
|8||cups beef or chicken stock, or more to taste|
|½||pound lamb or pork sausage (about 2 links)|
|¼||pound slab bacon, cut into ¾-inch cubes|
|1½||cups panko breadcrumbs|
1. Set the oven at 325 degrees.
2. In a large flameproof casserole over medium-high heat, heat 2
tablespoons of the oil. Sprinkle the lamb shanks and chops with salt and pepper. Brown the lamb in batches for 6 to 10 minutes or until golden all over. Leave the meat in the pan.
3. Add the onion, carrot, celery, garlic, beans, wine, thyme, rosemary, and 5 cups of stock (enough to cover the meat and beans by at least 1 inch). Bring to a boil, cover, and transfer to the oven.
4. Cook for 2½ to 3 hours or until the lamb is very tender when pierced with a kitchen fork. Cool to room temperature. Discard the herb sprigs. Refrigerate the meat and beans separately, covered, overnight.
5. Set the oven at 350 degrees. Have on hand a 9-by-13-inch
6. Discard any fat around the meat. Remove and discard the bones; cut the meat into large chunks.
7. In a skillet over medium heat, heat the remaining 1 tablespoon oil. Add the sausages and cook for 10 minutes or until they are browned and cooked through. Transfer to a cutting board; cool slightly, then cut into chunks.
8. Add the bacon to the pan and cook, turning often, for 10 minutes or until crisp. With a slotted spoon, transfer the bacon to a plate lined with paper towels. Remove the pan from the heat and discard all but 1½ tablespoons of bacon fat. Add the panko and toss the crumbs in the fat.
9. In the baking dish, layer the beans, lamb chunks, sausage, and bacon. Pour enough of the remaining 3 cups stock over the beans so the liquid comes about two-thirds up the sides of the dish. Top with the panko.
10. Bake, uncovered, for 1 to 1½ hours or until the mixture is bubbling and the crust is golden.
Lisa Zwirn. Adapted from Russell House Tavern