The Greeks make a dish called Lamb Fricassee that is not a fricassee in the traditional French sense, but rather a delicate, savory braise of lamb and lettuce greens. I think they call it a fricassee because the meat is not browned prior to braising, only sautéed long enough to remove the pink color, and the sauce is pale. Neni said the Greeks don’t consider it spring until they’ve made this dish, which calls for spring greens like dandelion and baby arugula. The dish is finished with a lovely frothy egg and lemon sauce. Just about every taverna in Greece will serve a version of this dish, but like so many iconic dishes, it can be great, and it can be awful. This recipe is exquisite: elegant, earthy, and surprising.
Fricassee of Lamb
¾ cup olive oil
2 3/4 pounds lamb or goat shank, or a combination
2 cups finely diced onion
9 scallions, chopped (greens and white)
2 cups chopped fennel and fronds, plus 1 additional cup chopped fronds
2 cups water
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
½ lb dandelion greens or 1 ½ heads romaine lettuce, chopped, or a combination
2 cups baby arugula
For the Egg Sauce
Juice from 3 large lemons
3 large eggs, separated
Preheat oven to 450F.
Heat the oil in the bottom of a large braising pan with a fitted lid over a medium high heat. Add the meat and lightly sauté for about 5 minutes. You are only cooking the meat long enough to remove the pink color. Do not brown. Remove the meat and set aside.
Add the onions and increase to a high heat. Cook the onions until soft and yellow, about 5 minutes. Add the fennel and cook it for about 2 minutes just to soften a bit, then add back the lamb and add the water. Cover and bring to a boil, then turn the heat down to low. Add the pepper. Remove from heat, cover and put in the oven.
Cook the shanks for 1 hour, and then add the chopped lettuce and arugula and salt to taste. Add 1 cup of water. Move the braising pan to the stovetop and cook over a low heat for another 2 hours, until the shanks are meltingly tender. The greens will be very wilted and soupy. This is good.
Make the egg sauce. Whip the egg whites into soft peaks in a large bowl. Drop in the egg yolks one at a time, folding in after each one. With a large ladle, scoop up some juice. Add an equal amount of the lemon juice and pour into the egg mixture, whisking all the while. Repeat until you have used all the lemon juice, then add all the remaining sauce into the egg mixture, whisking all the while.