Pistache de Mouton ou d'Agneau
Region: France, Languedoc
Difficulty: Easy but long cooking time
In the Aude, a region of Languedoc, during the Middle Ages laborers, whose heavy work required a lot of energy, would eat lamb stew, an omelet, or mutton tripe for breakfast. At ten o'clock, the men would take a break and eat bread ends and levar l'ega, drink a cup of water. At midday, they ate soup, cabbage, or other vegetables with a piece of meat. At three was another l'ega, or water break. At six they ate cassoulet or pistache (this recipe). At nine they would have some aiga bolhida (a soup) and a salad.
The pistache does not refer to pistachios, which do not appear in this recipe, but to the expression avoir sa pistache, "to be drunk," from all the wine and garlic the meat is cooked in. This dish is also known as a preparation à la Catalane. If you were living in Languedoc, you would insist on using pré-salé, the sheep raised in salt marsh meadows near the sea, which have a distinctive taste. Serving this dish with moules aux épinards provides a delightful balance.
[photo: Clifford A. Wright]
Yield: Makes 4 to 6 servings
Preparation Time: 1:40 hours
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
2. Rub the lamb or mutton with salt and pepper. In a large oven-proof stove-top casserole, melt the goose or duck fat over a medium heat, then brown the lamb on all sides with the carrot, onion, and ham, about 20 minutes, turning frequently.
3. Pour in the wine and chicken broth and add the bouquet garni. Cover and place in the oven for 45 minutes. Add the orange strip and garlic cloves and bake until the meat is tender, another 20 to 25.
4. Remove the roast from the casserole and set aside to a deep serving platter, keeping it warm. Remove 2 cups of the sauce from the baking casserole and transfer to a saucepan with the beurre manié. Reduce the sauce for 5 minutes over high heat, stirring constantly. Remove the twine from the roast and cover with the sauce. Garnish with the olives and serve immediately.
Note 1: Rather than buy a whole shoulder roast, tie boneless lamb or mutton shoulder slices together with butcher's twine into the shape of a whole roast. When the roast is done, the meat will have gently fused together. Simply cut off the twine and pull the slices apart.