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Catalán Lamb with Beans

This Catalan lamb with beans Cassoulet is not an easy recipe to make but, if you’re stuck at home in a blizzard or want to honor your friends by preparing a complicated and delicious dish, this is it and it’s worth every minute of intense labor.  This is the original recipe from the book first published in 1983.  A new simplified edition was released in 2005 but I’m not a fan of it.


Here is Paula Wolfert’s superb version of cassoulet called in Catalan en pistache, as served in the central

Pyrenees. If you like the combination of lamb and garlic (and who

doesn’t?-Lucien Vanel once told me one should fall to one’s knees before such

beautiful affinity of tastes!), you will adore this dish.

Buy “choice” lamb rather than “prime” -it is less fatty, and lamb fat is particularly

delicious. The method of cooking the lamb in its own juices with a’

quantity of wine and aromatics was devised to bring out the true flavor of the meat. With

the dish, pass a small bowl of pickled walnuts.
Please note that a crust should have formed on top.  I’ll make sure it does that next time and post the new picture.




Inspired by a recipe from Lucien Vanel





1 pound dried white beans such as Great Northern or pea beans

10 ounces lean salt pork

1 boned lean shoulder of lamb (3 to 3 1/2 pounds), cut into 2-inch cubes

1 head plus 4 cloves garlic

Salt and freshly ground pepper

Granulated sugar

2 tablespoons peanut or olive oil

1 1/2 cups chopped onions

1 cup dry white wine

3 tomatoes, peeled, seeded, and chopped

1 tablespoon tomato paste

1/2 ounce dried cepes

1 piece orange rind

2 carrots, sliced

1 onion stuck with 2 cloves

soak beans  in cold water.

Meanwhile, with a thin-bladed knife, remove rind from lean salt pork. Cook

the pieces in simmering water 3 minutes. Drain, rinse under cold running water,

dry. Cut lean salt pork into small cubes. Set aside cubes and whole rind.

~ Cut away as much fat as possible from each cube of lamb. Peel 4 cloves of garlic

– cut each clove into slivers. With a small paring knife, make a slit in each cube of lamb and insert a sliver or garlic. Rub the meat the meat very lightly with sugar so the lamb will have a nice brown glossy color when browned.

In a flameproof 3-quart heavy-bottomed casserole, heat oil over high heat and brown the lamb on all sides in batches. Avoid too high a heat, but do sear the lamb cubes.Transfer each batch to a plate to make room for the next batch.When all the lamb has been browned, wipe out the fat in the bottom of thecasserole. Add cubes of salt pork. Lower heat, cover, and cook 5 minutes, shaking the casserole often so cubes will not stick. Uncover, add onions, and cook gently,lowering heat, once or twice, until soft and golden. Tilt casserole and press on onions and salt pork cubes with the back of a slotted spoon to extract excess fat. Use a paper towel to mop up fat.

Deglaze the casserole with wine. Return lamb pieces and any juices that have accumulated on the plate. Add tomatoes, tomato paste, cepes (washed-not soaked), and the. orange rind. Bring to a boil, then simmer, tightly covered, 2 hours, or until tender.

I must admit that I usually skip this step but Paula doesn’t!

When beans have soaked 1 1/2 hours, drain and put in a 4- or 5-quart heavy pan.

Cover with tepid water and slowly bring to a boil. Boil beans 5 minutes.Meanwhile, bring a kettle of water to a boil. When beans have boiled 5 minutes, drain and return to pan. Immediately pour enough boiling water over to cover. (This little extra step eliminates a great deal of the gas that causes some bean eaters to suffer.)

Add carrots, onion stuck with 2 cloves, blanched pork rind, and herb bouquet.

Reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer 2 hours. Midway add 1 teaspoon salt.

When lamb has finished cooking, set aside, uncovered. Spoon off any fat that rises to the surface. Prick sausage or sausages 3 or 4 times. Add to beans after they have cooked 1 1/2 hours. Continue cooking beans, uncovered, 30 minutes.

Remove and discard carrots, onion stuck with cloves, and herb bouquet.  Separate remaining garlic head into cloves. Cook cloves in their skins in a small saucepan with water to cover 10 minutes. Drain and peel. Set aside.

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

Line an enamelware or stoneware bean pot with the pork rind fat side down. (The skin side Sticks.) Using a slotted spoon spread about 1/3 of the beans to make a layer over the rind, then add a layer of about half of the lamb.

Cut the sausage or sausages into 8 slices of approximately equal size; place between lamb chunks.

Scatter peeled garlic cloves on top. Cover with another layer of beans, add remaining lamb, then remaining beans. Pour all the meat cooking liquid over-beans and add just enough of bean cooking liquid to moisten. Set pot in oven to  cook for 1 hour, or until a crust forms on the surface. Serve directly from earthenware dish.

Dish can be prepared 1day in advance.