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Monday, February 6, 2023

A Menu to Remember, Complete with Hearty Beans and Tender Lamb

No matter what you name it, the highlight of this winter dinner, which is a dish of slow-cooked lamb and beans, is not considered to be a kind of fast cuisine.

You may make luscious meat as well as a flavorful broth by slowly simmering lamb shanks in a single pot. Beans are going to be cooked in another pot. After that, you will mix the two and bake them for a total of two times. If you take your time, which you absolutely should, the process will take two to three days, but the finished product will be a meal with a taste that is rich and entrancing.

Although it has some similarities, it is not the same as a full-fledged, conventional cassoulet. Cassoulet is a regional speciality of the southwest of France and is often made with sausages, pig belly, and duck confit. Even if some people may argue that it is not at all a cassoulet, eating it is nevertheless incredibly pleasant. Consequently, I questioned whether or not it could still be termed cassoulet if it lacked all of the other components, or whether or not it should just be labelled cassoulet-ish.

I got in contact with Kate Hill, an American who has spent the better part of three decades living in the region that is known for its cassoulet and is an expert on the cuisine of the southwestern region of France. She is the author of numerous books about cooking, one of which is titled “Cassoulet: A French Obsession.” I inquired whether there was such a thing as a cassoulet that was just prepared with lamb.

The answer that she gave was yes. This dish, which is known as cassoulet d’agneau, is the kind of food that a little village routier, sometimes known as a wayside eatery, may offer as a daily special.

It is called a casserole and it is an earthenware cooking vessel that is appropriate for any recipe that calls for cassoulet. It is considerably deeper than a conventional gratin dish.

But what exactly does a name mean? It is essential that you make use of a vital cassoulet method, which involves moistening the beans with exactly the right amount of broth. This guarantees that all of the flavour is concentrated when the beans bake in the oven. At the very end, the beans should have a velvety texture, a juicy and somewhat sticky consistency, and an exceptional level of complexity.

Because the main course is already so substantial, there isn’t much space for anything else on the menu. To begin the dinner, begin by nibbling on radishes and olives, and possibly some saucisson that has been thinly sliced. A green salad with a garlicky dressing would be a nice addition. But I wanted a different salad, one that was seasonal and refreshing, so I went to pomegranates and persimmons, two of the most vibrant fruits that are available throughout the autumn and winter months. Be careful to use the rounder, Fuyu kind of persimmons, which may be eaten raw, rather than the pointier Hachiya variety, which must be completely ripe and mushy in order to be edible. You might add arugula or radicchio leaves to this salad if you want to serve it as a first course. Alternatively, if you are using it as an accompaniment, all you need to do is garnish with mint.

Apples baked in the oven are a simple sweet, but these apples have an air of sophistication about them. You may serve them warm or at room temperature with a dollop of crème fraiche on top. They are stuffed with dried apricots and raisins and coated with honey and apricot jam. These, by the way, may also be prepared one or two days in advance at your convenience.

A hearty winter meal is almost ready to be served if you have your cassoulet cooking in the oven, a fire going in the fireplace, and a great bottle of red wine on hand. Take it easy for now.

Jonathan James
I serve as a Senior Executive Journalist of The National Era
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