Serves: Makes 6 to 8 servings
- 1 pound (about 2½ cups) dried small white beans
- 1 (4-pound) boneless leg of lamb
- 10 cloves garlic
- 1 tablespoon coarse salt
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary
- ¼ teaspoon freshly ground coarse black pepper
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 large (8 ounces) yellow onion, chopped
- 1 large carrot, peeled and chopped (1 cup)
- 1 cup drained canned Italian plum tomatoes, cut up
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 (3 by ½-inch) strip orange zest
- 4 cups lamb, beef, or low-sodium chicken broth
- Orange Gremolata:
- ½ cup loosely packed fresh Italian parsley leaves
- 2 (3 by ½-inch) strips orange zest
- 2 cloves garlic, bruised with knife
Procedures:Typically, foods aren’t browned before they go into a clay cooker, but browning the meat and cooking the aromatic vegetables (onion, carrot, and garlic) until golden add extra flavor to the mild-tasting beans that cook along with the lamb. The gremolata, which is sprinkled on top of the finished dish, is traditionally a finely chopped mixture of lemon zest, garlic, and parsley. For this dish, orange zest is substituted for the lemon.
Place the beans in a large bowl, add cold water to cover by at least 2 inches, and soak in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours or up to overnight. Drain well before using. Alternatively, place the beans in a saucepan, add cold water to cover by 2 inches, bring to a boil, cover, and boil for 3 minutes. Remove from the heat and let stand in the water, covered, for 1 hour. Drain well before using.
If new, soak both portions of a 3-quart clay cooker in cold water for 30 minutes. If the pot has been used before, soak both parts for only 15 minutes. Drain and pat dry before using.
Lay the lamb flat, fat side up, on a work surface. With a paring or boning knife, trim off any large clumps of fat the butcher might have missed. Turn the lamb, cut side up. Use a mortar and pestle to crush together the garlic, salt, rosemary, and pepper to a paste. Alternatively, use a garlic press to mash or a rasp grater to grate the garlic and then mash together the garlic, salt, rosemary, and pepper in a small bowl, using a fork. Measure out and reserve 2 teaspoons of the garlic mixture. Spread the remaining garlic mixture on the cut surface of the lamb.
Cut 8 lengths of cooking string each about 20 inches long, or use silicone ties. Position the lamb with a long side facing you, and roll it into a fat oval, tucking in the edges as you roll. Position the lamb horizontally on the work surface, and place 6 lengths of the string, at equally spaced intervals, under it. Tie each string firmly, but not too tightly, around the meat. Run the remaining 2 pieces of string lengthwise around the lamb, and tie them in place, tucking any protruding pieces of lamb under the strings.
Heat a large, heavy skillet over medium heat and add the olive oil. Add the lamb and brown, turning with tongs and a wide spatula, for about 20 minutes, or until well colored on all sides. Transfer the lamb to a plate. Add the onion and carrot, and cook over medium heat, stirring, for 10 minutes, or until golden. Add the reserved 2 teaspoons of the garlic mixture and cook for 30 seconds. Add the drained beans, tomatoes, bay leaves, and orange zest, and stir to blend.
Spoon the bean mixture into the bottom half of the soaked clay cooker. Place the lamb on top of the beans with any juices that accumulated on the plate. Add the broth.
Cover and place in a cold oven. Turn the oven to 450°F. Bake without disturbing for 2 hours. Remove from the oven and let stand, covered, for 20 minutes.
Make the gremolata: On a cutting board, finely chop the parsley, orange zest, and garlic together with a knife, or chop them together in a food processor. Set aside.
Using oven mitts, lift the lid from the clay cooker. Use a wide spatula and tongs to transfer the meat to a cutting board. Tent the meat with aluminum foil. Taste the beans and add salt and pepper, if needed. Remove the bay leaves. Use a slotted spoon to transfer the beans to a deep platter and tent with foil to keep warm. Transfer the excess juices in the clay cooker to a saucepan and boil for 3 minutes, until reduced slightly.
Remove the strings or ties from the meat. Carve the meat into ¼-inch-thick slices and arrange the slices on top of the beans. Spoon the reduced juices over the top. Sprinkle the gremolata evenly on top and serve.