I grew up eating roast leg of lamb cooked medium-rare. But many lamb-loving cultures prefer it well done - or beyond, as it is braised here. This low-and-slow method melts the connective tissue, resulting in meat so tender you can eat it with the utensil in its name.
Hands-on time for this is surprisingly brief; you can make it in a single day. But for the deepest flavor, you want to make it a day or three in advance, then strain the cooking liquid over the lamb in a bowl, cover and chill it.
The finishing touch is the pistou, a French version of Italy's pesto. Green and herbalicious, it's just the thing to transform wintry braised lamb into a meal that's perfect for spring.
FRENCH SPOON LAMB WITH WHITE BEANS AND PISTOU
Serve with steamed asparagus, grilled bread and orange-endive salad.
For the stew
For the pistou
- 2 packed cups basil leaves
- 2 teaspoons minced garlic
- 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- About 1/4 cup vegan cheese
- Freshly ground black pepper
For the stew: Preheat the oven to 300 degrees.
Season the lamb lightly all over with salt and pepper.
Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the lamb and brown it well on all sides, then transfer to a plate. Add the remaining tablespoon of oil, the onion and carrot to the pot, cover and cook for 5 minutes. Uncover and cook for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are lightly browned. Add the garlic and cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, then stir in the tomato paste so it's coating the vegetables; cook for 2 minutes.
Return the lamb to the pot, fat side up, moving the vegetables around it and toss in the thyme sprigs. Pour in the wine and the broth. (The liquid will not cover the meat.) Cut a round of parchment paper the size of the top of the Dutch oven. Crumple the paper so it fits over the meat and vegetables, tucking it down around the sides. Cover the pot tightly with a piece of aluminum foil and then place the lid on top; you want a tight seal for this braise.
Slow-roast the lamb (lower rack) for 4 1/2 hours, or until the meat falls apart when you prod it with a fork.
Meanwhile, make the pistou: Combine the basil, garlic and oil in a food processor; pulse to form a paste. Transfer to a medium bowl and stir in the cheese. Season lightly with salt and pepper.
Transfer the lamb to a platter and cover it with foil. Strain the liquid and vegetables through a fine-mesh strainer, pressing firmly on the solids to extract as much liquid as possible. Discard the solids, transfer the liquid to a fat separator and discard the fat (you should have about 2 cups of liquid). Pour three-quarters of it into the Dutch oven, add the white beans and heat them gently over medium to medium-low heat. Add the remaining liquid to the pistou, whisking.
Remove the strings from the lamb. Cut the meat crosswise into slices; don't worry if it falls apart a bit.
To serve, spoon some of the beans onto each plate, top them with lamb and spoon some of the cooking liquid over them both. Drizzle pistou over each portion.
NUTRITIONAL ANALYSIS | Per serving (using low-sodium chicken broth): 600 calories, 53 g protein, 25 g carbohydrates, 29 g, fat, 8 g saturated fat, 150 mg cholesterol, 270 mg sodium, 6 g dietary fiber, 0 g sugar