Purgatorio Beans and Spoon Lamb

I have never made lamb and this was my first go at it. Easy!

Seven-Hour “Spoon” Lamb

This is Sally Schneider’s revisionist version of Paula Wolfert’s famous spoon lamb recipe. Serves 6 to 8 with leftovers


One 5 to 6 pound leg of lamb tied (have the butcher trim off the shank bone trimmed) OR a boneless lamb shoulder, about 5 pounds, tied into a compact bundle
5 heads garlic
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/4 cup Cognac or Armagnac (we omitted this)
1/3 cup dry white wine
2 tablespoons wildflower honey
1 or 2 strips orange zest
2 to 3 sprigs fresh thyme

A few hours before cooking the lamb, rub it with the Kosher salt. Place on a platter uncovered in the fridge to marinate. Meanwhile, break apart and separate the cloves, pulling off any extraneous papery skin; don’t peel unless you want to.

Heat the oil in a large heavy flameproof casserole (enamel on cast-iron is perfect), over moderate heat. Pat the lamb dry and brown to golden, about 5 minutes per side, 20 minutes total. Pour off fat and add the Cognac. Tilt the pan to ignite, taking care to stand back. When the flames have died out, add the white wine, honey, orange zest, thyme and the garlic cloves. Cover with a sheet of foil and press the lid down to seal. Roast in a preheated 200′ oven, until the lamb is fork tender, about 7 hours, turning the lamb once halfway through.

Transfer the lamb to a platter and cover with the foil. Pour the juices into a cup and skim off the fat. To give the juices a more concentrated flavor, pour into a heavy saucepan and simmer until reduced by about one quarter, or the flavor is right. Pull the meat apart or slice it against the grain and arrange on a platter. Pour some of the juices over and pass the rest.

We found these perfect little Italian heirloom white beans called Purgatorio from Ayers Creek Farm. According to the tradition, they were prepared for the “Lunch of Purgatory” for the Ash Wednesday.

White / Green Chicken Chili
Makes 6 servings

2 tbsp vegetable oil
6 chicken legs (we used turkey)
1 medium onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 Anaheim peppers, diced
1 serrano chili pepper, chopped
1 jalapeno pepper, chopped
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp dried oregano (Mediterranean or Mexican is fine)
2 sprigs fresh thyme
1 bay leaf
4 whole cloves
2 cans cannellini beans, rinsed and drained (we used the Purgatorio beans)
2 cups chicken stock
2 tbsp cilantro, minced
flour tortillas (or corn tortillas)
various accompaniments (see below)

Heat 2 tbsp of vegetable oil in a skillet. Brown chicken legs. Take out and set aside chicken legs. Drain excess oil and add onions. When onions are translucent, add ground cumin and oregano and cook with onions until lightly brown. Add garlic.

When fragrant, add the Anaheim peppers, serrano and jalapeño peppers and beans. Add chicken stock and put back the chicken legs and add the thyme, bay leaf and cloves. Simmer until chicken legs are tender, about 35-45 minutes. If desired, debone chicken legs and put back the shredded chicken meat into the pan. Stir in the chopped cilantro. Serve with flour tortillas warmed up. Other garnishes to include: queso fresco, sliced radishes, more jalapeños, sliced avocados, lime wedges. (Or, of course, our Lemon Feta Dip.)


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