Ed note: During a visit to Vancouver Island, we fell in love with this incredible dish from the Mahle House Restaurant. Fork tender braised lamb shoulder served over a rich, earthy, and comforting pancetta and white bean cassoulet makes the perfect dish for cooler weather. The candied lemon garnish adds just the right citrusy element to the beans.
Don’t be intimidated by this dish. It’s not that hard. Chef Stephen says, “This recipe might seem daunting, but the degree of difficulty is moderate at best. It just takes a bit of time and patience.”
Try making a big pot of this a day ahead of time to allow the flavors to really meld and enjoy it for several days.
Recipe courtesy Chef Stephen Wilson, Mahle House Restaurant, Nanaimo, Vancouver Island, British Columbia. (See our review of Mahle House Restaurant.) www.mahlehouse.ca/
Serves 8 generously
Chef’s note: Best if you can prepare one day in advance
2 lamb shoulder (no bones), well tied with butcher twine (if using a product that is already tied, keep in wrapping)
2 Tbs paprika & 2 Tbs turmeric, combined
- Season lamb with salt and pepper and the spice mixture
- Sear lamb over medium heat with enough oil to just coat the pan, being careful to brown, not burn spices
- Set aside and prepare braise
1 onion, large dice
1 cup carrot, large dice
1 cup celery, large dice
2 bay leaves
2 cups (500ml) white wine
2 cups (500ml) oven roasted tomatoes (chopped plum tomatoes will suffice) (see our recipe for oven roasted tomatoes)
2 pcs star anise
10 whole black peppercorns
½ stick cinnamon
4 cups (1 liter) stock (chicken/lamb/veal)
2 lemons (zest only – peel off with vegetable peeler or microplane)
1 oz ginger chopped finely
5 cloves crushed and chopped garlic
- In a straight-sided pot, deep enough to handle the shoulders side-by-side with at least an inch clearance to the top of the pot, sauté vegetables over medium heat until caramelized (vegetables should be nicely browned)
- Add ginger, garlic, bay, star anise, peppercorns, cinnamon, figs, lemon zest and sauté for 3 minutes
- Deglaze with white wine (as it bubbles scrape off gunk on the bottom of pan) and let liquid reduce by half
- Add tomatoes and stock, bring to a simmer and remove from heat
- Put lamb into pot carefully to avoid overflow
- Cut a circle of parchment paper equal to the diameter of the pot and cover lamb. Cover pot tightly with a lid or foil. (Parchment ensures upper part of lamb does not burn against lid.)
- Cook overnight at 260 degrees for 10-12 hours or at 325 for 5-6 hours
- Remove lamb from braise. Skim fat very thoroughly from top of liquid (very important). Blenderize braising liquid, pass through medium mesh sieve. If preparing the day before, allow sauce to cool – will make it easier to remove additional fat from top.
- Slice lamb, serve over cassoulet, top with sauce, gremolata (generously) and lemon zest (roughly 10 strands per person). (If preparing the day before, lamb is much easier to slice into uniform serving sizeswhen cool. Reheat on the stove in the sauce (may need to add a little stock or water to thin as it will reduce and thicken during the reheating process)
White Bean and Pancetta Cassoulet
4 cups (1 liter) white navy beans
8 cups (2 liter) water
1 onion, very small dice
1 cup carrot, very small dice
1 cup celery, very small dice
2 Tbs very very small dice garlic
2 Tbs chopped fresh thyme
1 pound pancetta (you can substitute bacon) diced ¼ inch. Use the best quality and thickest bacon/pancetta possible.
8 cups (2 liter) chicken stock (may substitute water)
1 cup white wine
1 cup chopped tomato
1 bay leaf
- Soak beans in water 24 hours, drain
- Sauté pancetta over medium heat until nicely browned
- Add carrot, onion and celery and sauté until onion is partially transparent
- Add garlic, thyme and bay leaf – cook for one minute
- Deglaze with wine, add chopped tomato
- Add beans to pot, add enough stock to cover beans by an inch. Bring to a simmer and place in 400 degree oven.
- Stir every 30 minutes for roughly 1 ½ to 2 hours. Check beans…the goal is to be cooked at the same time as the liquid is reduced to a semi-thick stew consistency. Add more stock to beans if necessary towards end of cooking time.
Julienne lemon zest of 2 or 3 lemons (2 inch long very thin strips of lemon rind)
In a small pot, put zest into cold water. Bring to a boil, drain. Repeat process 2 more times. Then put 1 cup water and a cup of sugar in pot. Add zest, bring to simmer for 5 minutes. Drain and toss in 3 cups of sugar. Spread over a 18 X 10 (roughly) sheet pan and let sugar absorb moisture for a couple hours. With your fingers, remove lemon zest, and ⅓ cup salt and toss lightly…some sugar should have remained on the zest as well. Let rest 24 hours or at least overnight.
(Ed note: Gremolata or gremolada is a chopped herb condiment typically made of garlic, parsely, and lemon zest. There is considerable variation in gremolata recipes, inckuding the addition of mint, sage, rosemary, and anchovies.)
Thinly slice 4 cloves garlic and sauté in 3 Tbs canola/olive oil blend over medium heat until they turn lightly brown. Add ½ cup chopped parsley and sauté while stirring for 30 seconds. Add 2 cups panko** (Japanese bread crumbs) and sauté while stirring until bread crumbs are lightly toasted. The resulting mixture should be fragrant, and dry. If any moisture remains toast a bit longer and dry in a very low oven on a baking sheet.
** Note: Regular bread crumbs are not a good substitute. Panko can be found in most Asian markets or the Asian section of most grocery stores.