I hosted a dinner recently and wanted to take my guests to the south of France with the meal. My research lead me to a quintessential Provencal dish called Soupe au Pistou. At it’s simplest, it is a hearty vegetable soup topped with Pistou, which is very similar to pesto, only without the nuts and a bit thinner in consistency.
In order to make it more of a main dish meal, I went for a lamb version, using some prime lamb shanks from my local butcher, Rudolph’s. Each shank can be about 2-3 servings in size, so luckily the butcher had already split each bone into multiple servings.
The broth generated from braising the lamb with garlic, onion and herbs cam out sooo silky in texture. I had never tasted anything quite like it before! I hadn’t really expected that from a relatively simple broth.
The other key thing to note about the recipe is the many different vegetables that go into the final soup. Though time intensive, I think that the step of parboiling each vegetable separately was a key step to keep each veggie at its optimum doneness to still stand out with a tender crunch in the final meal.
Serve this with a light, bright salad on the side to provide a counterpoint to the rich and flavorful broth. Be sure to have lots of good crusty bread for dunking. Enjoy!
- 4 large or 6 small lamb shanks
- Salt and pepper
- Olive oil
- 2 medium onions, sliced
- 1 large carrot, peeled and sliced
- 1 celery rib, sliced
- 14 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
- 2 medium tomatoes, quartered
- 10 cups chicken stock
- Bouquet garni: thyme, parsley and bay
- 1 can canellini beans
- 1 pound green beans, cut in ½-inch pieces
- 1 large bulb fennel, diced
- 2 carrots, diced
- 2 medium potatoes, diced
- Extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 large onions, diced
- 2 small zucchini, diced
- 1 large can peeled diced tomatoes
- 2 tablespoons chopped parsley
- 2 teaspoons chopped thyme
- 4 medium cloves garlic
- 2 tsp. kosher or sea salt
- 2 cups packed basil leaves, washed and dried
- ⅓ cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
- ½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
- Heat oven to 350
- In a large dutch oven, heat about 3 TB olive oil
- Generously salt & pepper the shanks and brown them in the pan. You may have to do a few batches if the pan gets overcrowded. Set aside on a plate.
- While they are browning, slice up onion, carrot, celery. Peel & smash garlic.
- Once done browning, add the onion, carrot, celery, garlic in the same dutch oven and sautee about 2-3 minutes. Add can of tomatoes and stir to combine. Place the shanks back in the pot and arrange so they all fit in a single layer. Add chicken stock. Cover and bring to a simmer. Place covered pot into oven and cook 2 hours.
- While shanks are braising, heat a stock pot ¾ full of water & 2 tsp salt.
- prepare the rest of the ingredients for the soup:
- - rinse the beans
- - cut the green beans into ½ inch pieces
- - dice the fennel, carrots, potatoes, onions, zucchini
- - chop parsley, thyme
- Keep everything separated in different bowls
- parboil green beans, carrots, fennel, potato separately and then scoop out with a strainer and spread out on a cookie sheet to cool. Should take about 1 min-2 min for everything except potatoes, which might take 4-5 min.
- Make the pistou: Place all the ingredients in a food processor or blender and process. Add more oil to get the right consistency - thin enough to drizzle.
- Once lamb shanks are done. Remove from pot and strain the braising veggies out of the liquid. Skim off any excess fat on top.
- Measure out the remaining broth and then add enough chicken broth or veggie liquid to make 10 cups of liquid. Add shanks back in and set aside.
- In a large sautee pan, sautee the onions & zucchini in some olive oil about 3-4 minutes. Add the tomatoes, parboiled fennel, carrots, green beans, potato, parsley, thyme and season with salt & pepper and cook about another 2 minutes.
- Bring the lamb shanks up to simmer. Stir in sauteed veggies. Season to taste with salt & pepper.
- To serve, place a lamb shank in a shallow bowl and spoon in the soup. Swirl in some pistou and garnish with chopped parsley. Serve with lots of crusty bread and wine!