Ronald Jasinski of New Hartford, N.Y., was in search of a recipe for a lamb and bean casserole. He said his late uncle used to make the dish, but no one in his extended family has his recipe.
Jasinski did not provide me with much detail about his uncle's casserole — only that the whole family loved it — so I decided to track down a recipe for a classic lamb and bean stew for him to try. I came across an article originally published in The New York Times in November 1997 by Florence Fabricant with the headline "Stew: Warming, Comforting And Now, Fashionable." The article featured several recipes from different New York City restaurants that were participating in ''La Fete de la Casserole,'' or Casserole Festival, a fixed-price dining event designed to highlight the variety and popularity of this comfort food category. The recipe for lamb and white bean casserole was adapted by Fabricant from one served at Bar Six in Greenwich Village, one of the 12 restaurants that participated in the festival.
While one might not think of this deliciously hearty dish as all that fashionable, it is unquestionably comfort food at it's best. It is a good basic recipe that is relatively easy to prepare, provided you have a very sharp knife or a butcher to debone the meat from the shanks. Like most meat stews, I found this one tasted even better the day after I made it. I hope this is close to the dish Jasinski was looking for, and with the cooler days of autumn arriving, it's is the ideal time to give it a try.
Sue Sober of Baltimore is looking for a recipe for the potato chip cookies that were sold at Hutzler's department store. She said "they were salty, sweet and delicious."
Gloris Costin Scott from Mishawaka, Ind., would like help locating a lost recipe for what she said was the best cheesecake she ever made. The recipe came from a box of Sawyer's graham crackers, and she has been unable to locate the company to ask for the recipe. Costin Scott was hoping someone might still have the recipe or know how to contact the company.
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Lamb and white bean casserole
(The New York Times' recipe, adapted from Bar Six)
Makes 6 servings
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 large yellow onion, diced
2 carrots, peeled and diced
2 stalks celery, diced
5 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
3 tablespoons flour
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
6 lamb shanks, boned and cut in 1-inch pieces (see note below)
1 cup dry white wine
2 cups beef or veal stock
1 cup peeled, chopped tomatoes
2 teaspoons dried herbes de Provence
6 cups cooked cannellini beans, rinsed and drained if canned
3 sprigs fresh thyme
Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a heavy, ovenproof 5- to 6-quart casserole dish. Add onion, carrots, celery and garlic and saute over medium heat, stirring until tender. Increase heat slightly, and when vegetables begin to brown, remove them from pot and take pot off heat.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Season the flour with salt and pepper in a bowl. Toss lamb in flour to coat.
Heat remaining oil in casserole. Add lamb, and sear over medium-high heat, stirring and turning until meat is browned. Remove meat from pot, and add wine. Cook, stirring to deglaze the pot and reduce the wine. Stir in the stock, tomatoes and herbes de Provence. Taste sauce, and add more salt and pepper if necessary.
Return vegetables to casserole, then add lamb and beans. Place thyme on top. Cover casserole, and place in oven for 1 hour. Increase heat to 375 degrees, uncover casserole and bake 20 minutes longer. Serve at once, or set aside and reheat before serving.
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Note: Boning lamb shanks takes a very sharp boning knife. There is a lot of sinew and membrane on the meat, and though you can remove some of it if you wish, there is no need to be too fastidious — the sinew melts as the meat cooks.