Thursday, January 3, 2013

Bean Heaven

Things got pretty darn chilly around here just before Christmas. Of course, our version of "chilly" may well be your definition of "balmy," but we Californians like to whine when the weather is less than ideal.

It was rainy as well as chilly, so hearty meals immediately came to mind. I read on "Cookblog" about a sort of ersatz cassoulet that Peter made, and it inspired me to simplify his recipe but to steal a couple of ideas from it.  I liked that he cooked the beans separately until almost tender in water, herbs and garlic to give them their own extra flavor boost, and I liked that he used duck goozle instead of confit duck legs to give a nod to tradition and additional richness.

I didn't have duck goozle, but I did have lamb/beef goozle and two lamb shoulder chops, so mine was all about the lamb.

I added bacon to the bean water (I used Navy beans, out of sentiment) as well as thyme and garlic - you simply can't go wrong with bacon. When the beans were nearing tenderness, I sautéed in a separate pan the lamb chunks in a little olive oil until they were nicely browned, and deglazed the pan with about two cups of lamb goozle and a little red wine and brewed coffee, using a rubber spatula to stir all the caramelized goodies off the bottom of the pan. Dumped the beans, the contents of the pan, and the bean water into my heavy enameled casserole and slid it into a slow oven for about four hours.

When it emerged, while the top was crusty and wonderful, there was still a lot of juice around the stew and I worried a little that I had added too much water. The first taste dispelled that concern - the bean goozle was richly flavored - I'd have happily drunk that from a glass. The lamb was rich and tender, the bacon just a kiss of a hint of a suggestion, and the beans!  Omigosh, the beans!  We have never had beans that packed such a wallop! They were deeply, warmly flavorful, heavenly beans.

I butter-steamed some Swiss chard with garlic to go alongside and that was also an inspired idea. The slightly bitter greens were a great accompaniment to the rich stew. This is ambrosia for some brawny, muscular gods who need a little warmth on a raw day up on Mount Olympus.


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