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Partner lamb with Pellegrini pinot for late winter magic

Jan 11, 2024Jan 11, 2024

Pellegrini 2019 Russian River Valley Pinot Noir ($40), our Wine of the Week, evokes its appellation with every sip. In the glass, it is translucent, suggestive of liquid garnets. Aromas conjure damp brambles and flowering lavender, with hints of cherry blossoms and plum blossoms.

On the palate, high notes of pomegranate, Queen Anne cherry, and Santa Rosa plum are followed by a savory foundation of new leather, pine needles, and wild mushrooms. The wine is focused, tannins are already lengthening, and bright acid keeps it all quite refreshing.

This varietal is the easiest of all red wines to pair at the table. From mushrooms — both cultivated and wild — and root vegetables to shell beans, farro, the dark meat of chicken, duck breast, lamb, and beef, this wine will flatter and be flattered by countless dishes. Lamb bolognese with bucatini is a fabulous match, as is a tagine of chicken thighs, green olives, and preserved lemons. Rare, ribeye steak smothered in maitake mushrooms sautéed long enough for their edges to have become crisp, encourages this wine to blossom into its full potential.

My two favorite pairings are mushroom risotto topped with a poached egg and this classic dish of delicate flageolets, a small pale green shell bean originally from France, and slow-cooked lamb. If you can’t find lamb shanks, you can use 8 to 10 ounces of lamb stew meat instead, adding it after sauteing onions and carrots. In several weeks, when cherries come into season, top the dish, just before serving it, with cherry gremolata, a simple condiment of fresh cherries, orange zest, garlic, parsley, tarragon, and Thai basil.

Makes 2 servings

4 ounces dried flageolet, preferably Rancho Gordo, soaked in water for at least 6 hours

1 or 2 lamb shanks

Kosher salt

Freshly ground black pepper

Olive oil

1 small yellow onion, peeled and cut into small dice

1 carrot, peeled and minced

3 or 4 garlic cloves, minced

2 or 3 Italian parsley sprigs

1 or 2 fresh thyme sprigs

1 tablespoon chopped Italian parsley

Extra virgin olive oil

Drain and rinse the flageolets and set them aside briefly.

Season the shanks all over with salt and pepper.

Set a heavy pot over medium high heat. Add just enough olive oil to thinly coat the bottom of the pan and brown the shanks all all sides. Use tongs to transfer to a plate or bowl.

Lower the heat to medium, add the onions and carrots, and saute gently until they begin to soften, about 7 to 10 minutes. Add the garlic, saute another minute, and return the shanks to the pot. Add the flageolets, herb sprigs, and enough water to cover the beans by about an inch.

Increase the heat to high and when the water reaches a full rolling boil, lower the heat, cover the pan, and simmer very gently until the beans are tender, about an hour and 15 minutes or a bit longer. Remove from the heat and let rest for about 15 minutes.

Use tongs to transfer the shanks to a clean work surface. Remove the meat, break it into small pieces if necessary, and return it to the pot. Use tongs to remove and discard the herb sprigs. Taste and correct for salt.

To serve, ladle into soup plates, sprinkle with Italian parsley, add a swirl of olive oil, and enjoy right away.

Michele Anna Jordan is the author of 24 books to date, including “The New Cook’s Tour of Sonoma.” Email her at [email protected].