Lamb and White Bean Casserole
- 1 pound dried Great Northern beans, rinsed well and picked over
- 2 tablespoons bacon fat or olive oil
- 3 pounds boneless lamb stew meat, cut into 2-inch cubes
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
- 3 cups chopped yellow onions
- 1 cup chopped celery
- 10 sprigs fresh thyme, tied with kitchen twine
- 3 bay leaves
- 2 teaspoons Essence, recipe follows
- 1/4 cup minced garlic
- 1 cup peeled whole tomatoes, coarsely chopped (canned is fine)
- 8 cups chicken stock, or canned low-sodium chicken broth
- 1/3 cup chopped green onions
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley leaves
- 1 cup dried bread crumbs
- 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan
- 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Combine the beans and 8 cups cold water in a large saucepan or soup pot and bring to a boil. Cover the pot and remove from the heat. Let sit for 1 hour. Drain the beans in a colander and discard the soaking liquid. Set the beans aside.
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
Meanwhile, heat the bacon fat in a large Dutch oven. Season the lamb with the salt and pepper and cook the lamb in batches until very brown on all sides, 8 to 10 minutes per batch. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the lamb to a bowl and set aside. Add the onions, celery, thyme, bay leaves, and Essence and cook, scraping up any browned bits from the bottom of the pan, until the vegetables are soft, 4 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 2 minutes. Add the tomatoes and chicken stock and return the meat to the pot. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to a simmer, and cook for 30 minutes.
Add the beans to the pot and continue cooking until the beans are tender but not mushy, 1 to 1 1/2 hours. The cooking liquid should be slightly thickened, just enough to coat the beans and lamb. (If the sauce seems too thin, remove the meat and beans with a slotted spoon and cook until the liquid has reduced and is slightly thickened. Alternatively, if the cooking liquid has reduced too much, add a bit of water.) Add the green onions and parsley, taste, and season if necessary with additional salt and pepper.
Transfer the bean mixture to a 9 by 13-inch casserole and top with the bread crumbs and Parmesan. Drizzle the top with the olive oil and bake, uncovered, until the casserole is golden brown on top and bubbly around the edges, about 30 minutes. Serve warm.Emeril's ESSENCE Creole Seasoning (also referred to as Bayou Blast):
2 1/2 tablespoons paprika
2 tablespoons salt
2 tablespoons garlic powder
1 tablespoon black pepper
1 tablespoon onion powder
1 tablespoon cayenne pepper
1 tablespoon dried oregano
1 tablespoon dried thyme
Combine all ingredients thoroughly.
Yield: 2/3 cup
Recipe from "New New Orleans Cooking", by Emeril Lagasse and Jessie Tirsch, published by William and Morrow, 1993.