The first version of cassoulet I ever tasted was made with lamb, and that combination of flavors was so pleasing to me that I've done a bunch of variations, including my favoritest-forever fullbore cassoulet made with Peruano beans and lamb neck (recipe gladly emailed on request - no secrets here!). The other night I'd just gotten a nice big leg of lamb from How's, and it came with its very large shank portion semi-detached, so it occurred to me that this would be a good time to try some interesting-looking beans I'd gotten from Surfas, called Tongues of Fire. I thought it might be nice to cook the beans Tuscan-style, overnight in a very slow oven with some seasonings and olive oil, and bury the shank in there to cook along with them. So I assembled:
1 great big lamb shank (about 1 1/2 lb)
1 yellow onion, chopped coarsely
2 Anaheim peppers, deseeded and chopped (should really have peeled them)
2 cloves garlic, peeled and partly crushed
1 lb. dried beans
Herbes de Provence, great big pinch
1/4 cup olive oil
water to cover by 3"
I mixed up the beans, vegetables and dried herbs and buried the lamb shank under all this in my oval enameled iron pot, poured the olive oil evenly over everything, then poured in the water. I covered the pot and put it in the middle of the oven, turned it on to 250o, had another glass of wine and went to bed.
The next day I pulled the pot out and set it aside to cool down until the contents could be handled, by which time the beans (which become a rich earthy dark reddish brown) were perfect, the lamb falling off the bone and the house smelled richly of garlic (and if you would have used the word "reeked" in there you might want to omit the garlic). I shredded the meat, then stirred in a few pinches of salt until it tasted right, and stuck the pot in the fridge. That night, a couple of hours before suppertime, I cooked six assorted fresh sausages (brats, sweet Italian, hot Italian in this case) on the gas grill until they were just firm and browning, cut them into 2" chunks and buried these in the beans. I then sprinkled a good layer of panko crumbs on top and put the pot uncovered into a 350o oven. After about 1 1/2 hours it was all bubbling nicely and a little crunchy on top. I broke the top up with a spoon and sorta poked it down into the beans, then put the pot on the hot tray and made a salad and poured the wine.
This is the kind of thing that can make cooking so much fun...
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