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  Lamb with Flageolet


Chef's Specialty: A winter warmer

Scott Mason of the Ketchum Grill cooks up local lamb with a surprisingly tasty twist: beans. Text by Chad Walsh. Photos by Paulette Phlipot.

In the past decade, there has been a significant cultural shift in the way American’s view food. No longer the stuff of simple sustenance, in the 21st Century, food is hot. "I love that Americans, as a whole, are getting the good food thing," said Scott Mason, owner and head chef of the Ketchum Grill. "We have become a nation of foodies."

On his days off from his restaurant, Mason likes to put on some good music (usually soul or classical), pour himself a glass of wine and experiment in the kitchen with his wife, Anne, and their two teenage daughters.

Chef Scott Mason revels in sourcing local foodstuffs throughout the year, be it from his kitchen garden or from the broad expanses of Idaho’s land.

When one understands the timing and the rhythm of preparing food, said Mason, one is free to explore dishes a little deeper. "I love to take the time to create something new," he said, and "many things that I make on my days off end up in some form on the restaurant special board." One such creation is his dish of Lava Lake Lamb with Flageolet. Comprised of fork-tender lamb accompanied by white French beans and accented with a crimson pear and mint chutney, the dish requires a little patience from a chef; preparation takes a least a day. The beans need 24 hours to soak before the cooking begins, after which they simmer for an hour before being finished over medium heat with the lamb. But Mason feels that taking time over a dish is a bonus, not a drawback. "Our lives have sped up so much we often don’t take the time to enjoy what we eat."

Mason developed his love for food at his parents’ table in Eugene, Oregon. That early exposure led to a varied career at kitchens throughout the Northwest. After meeting Anne, a pastry chef and fellow Oregonian, the couple settled in Idaho, where Mason was hired by Alfred Fehlmann, chef and owner of Freddy’s Taverne d’Alsace in Ketchum. His work with Fehlmann led to four apprenticeships at highly regarded restaurants in France. Then, 16 years ago Fehlmann sold his restaurant to Mason, which he transformed into the Ketchum Grill.

While his kitchen offers what Mason describes as traditional American cuisine with Italian and French roots, he tries hard to keep what he serves as regional and local as possible. "I love to buy from local meat producers for example, because I can speak with the growers and examine the process personally," Mason said. Consequently, he buys a lot of produce from Shoshone and Gooding, and the organic, grass-fed lamb served at his restaurant is from the Lava Lake farm, based east of Carey. "I look to the grower to provide me with information with respect to raising practices, slaughter and medications. If the grower is conscious of the need for naturally [raised livestock], then usually the quality of the product follows."

In keeping with his "localvore" principles, Mason’s lamb with flageolet dish incorporates a not-so-famous Idaho vegetable: beans. Mason points out that the farmers of the Gem State prolifically harvest beans, which are a perfect accompaniment to red meat. And for those who want to eat locally year-round, beans are a great dish in the wintertime. "Beans are hearty, they fill you up, they’re usually served hot and they’re a great source of protein," said Mason of the legume that he feels can make any good dish better. "They can be dried and they store well; and they can last all winter long."

And yet, while beans have a notorious reputation (they’re easy to both over- and under-cook, which can make them difficult to digest), Mason claims they can be easy to work with. "It is important not to cook them to the point where they lose their texture, nor should they be undercooked to where they’re crispy and brittle. Cooking them right allows them to be creamy," said Mason, "and that’s the quality I like in a bean."

Lamb with Flageolet

Lava Lake lamb leg with white French beans (flageolet) and crimson pear and mint chutney

Serves 6 – 8

(prep time 24 hours; cooking time 2 hours)

Beans

1 qt. flageolet (soaked overnight in 1 gallon cold water)

1 qt. homemade chicken stock

1/3 cup olive oil

5 peeled garlic cloves

1 peeled, diced yellow onion

1 sprig rosemary

3 bay leaves

1/4 tsp. ground white pepper

1 Tbsp. kosher salt

Crimson Pear & Mint Chutney

2 crimson pears (ripe, julienned)

1 shallot (peeled, julienned)

¼ cup sherry vinegar

¼ cup honey

15 pink peppercorns

1 pinch kosher salt

1 Tbsp. virgin olive oil

Lava Lake Lamb Leg

3 lbs Lava Lake lamb legs (top round)

kosher salt & fresh ground black pepper

1/4 cup olive oil

4 Roma tomatoes (quartered, seeded)

2 cups dry sherry

1 cup chicken stock

Directions Cook beans at a medium boil for 1 hour. Strain and set aside. In a large pot, lightly brown garlic cloves in olive oil. Add diced onion, sauté until translucent. Add seasonings, cooked beans and stock. Simmer for 45 minutes or until tender. While the beans cook, rub outside of lamb with salt, pepper. Heat oil and brown lamb on all sides in large skillet. Remove excess oil and add tomatoes, brown slightly. Deglaze pan with sherry, add stock and roast in oven at 400 degrees for 35-40 minutes. Remove from oven, add 4 cups cooked beans to pan. Evaporate excess liquid to desired consistency over medium heat. Serve lamb over beans on platter, with pear and mint chutney (simply toss all ingredients in a small mixing bowl), serve atop lamb.