Italian Grilled Lamb and White Bean Soup

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So I managed to score just under 3 lbs of lamb shoulder steaks the other day. My intention was to grill them, so when I got home from the store, I put them in a zip-top bag with a couple tablespoons of olive oil, 4 or 5 large cloves of garlic (crushed), a tablespoon of dried oregano, a medium yellow onion, chopped fine, salt and pepper. I massaged the meat and marinade thoroughly, and went back every 12 hours and did it again. I guess it stayed in the fridge for about 36 hours like that.

Unfortunately, last night, the weather was grim … cold and rainy, so grilling was out. So, loosely working with a recipe in one of my cookbooks, I ended up making a a soup with it. If you’ve been reading this blog, you’ll know instantly that I used my pressure cooker, but I’m sure you can adapt it for a normal soup pot. I started out with dried beans, but you could soak your beans overnight, or even use canned, rinsed beans.

The result was possibly the best soup I’ve ever made.

3lbs. lamb shoulder, trimmed of fat, bones removed, and marinated (see above)
1 cup dried cannellini beans or great northern whites
4 cups water, plus another 2 cups
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups chicken stock
1 15oz can whole tomatoes, crushed, plus the juices
3 bay leaves

1 tablespoon dried oregano
1 tablespoon smoked paprika
1 package frozen string beans (optional)

2 tablespoons dry sherry

Put 4 cups of water, the dry beans, and the salt into the pressure cooker. Heat at high pressure for 5 minutes, and then quick release the steam, and drain the water off. Heat up a stovetop grill pan over high heat. Remove the lamb from the marinate, scraping off as much of the onions as you can, and grill both sides for a total of 5 minutes.

Make sure you turn off your smoke alarm and turn on your exhaust fan for this one!

Move the lamb into the pressure cooker, and stir in all of the other ingredients, along with the onion and garlic marinade. Set the pressure cooker for high pressure, 25-30 minutes. Allow the pressure to naturally release. (Total time, about an hour.) Remove the lid, and spoon off any of the fat that might be on the surface.

Update, Jan 4, 2010 : So I was reading about a new technique for dealing with dried beans, and I remade this recipe tonight because my grocer had a killer deal on lamb shoulder chops. The technique is this : Soak the beans in water for 8 or more hours, but add several teaspoons of salt to the soaking water. Then, drain the beans and rinse off the salt. Your beans will end up being firm yet creamy on the inside. This is what I did for this recent batch of the soup, and it seemed to work exactly that way. I put the beans in water before I left this morning, and otherwise followed the rest of the procedure, and it turned out great. This is how I’ll be making the recipe from now on.