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A Winter Bistro Dinner

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Braised lamb shanks star in this hearty French meal which includes a white bean purée and a lemon tart.

The food served in bistros is not about breaking new culinary ground. Instead, it’s about using the best seasonal ingredients to cook simple food really well. Like all comfort food, bistro food should offer a sense of relaxed well-being. The ingredients aren’t exotic and the cooking techniques are straightforward, which makes it a perfect choice for entertaining at home. In this winter bistro-style menu, many components, including the main course of braised lamb shanks and the lemon tart for dessert, can be prepared ahead of time, and then wait until you and your guests are ready to eat.

Menu Timeline

Up to 1 day ahead:

  • Braise the lamb shanks; cool and refrigerate shanks separately from their cooking liquid.
  • Make tart dough; wrap well in plastic and refrigerate overnight.
  • Soak white beans in cold water overnight.

Up to six hours ahead:

  • Roll out tart crust and parbake. Cool to room temperature.
  • Make tart filling, fill crust, and bake tart. Cool at room temperature.
  • Roast garlic for white bean purée.
  • Roast beets for salad.

Up to two hours ahead:

  • Simmer white beans until tender.
  • Make vinaigrette for salad.
  • Blanch haricots verts in boiling water until just tender; shock in cold water and drain.
  • Toast baguette slices for salad.

30 minutes before dinner:

  • Reheat lamb shanks in their cooking liquid in a 400°F oven.
  • Finish the white bean purée.
  • Simmer the lamb braising liquid to reduce by one-third.
  • Bake goat cheese croutons and assemble salads.

Shopping List

Fresh Produce

  • 6 cups lightly packed mixed greens, such as frisée, red leaf lettuce, and mizuna
  • 3 medium red or golden beets
  • 1/2 lb. haricots verts
  • 4 to 6 large white mushrooms
  • 4 ribs celery
  • 4 medium carrots
  • 1 large onion
  • 1 medium shallot
  • 3 heads garlic
  • 1 small bunch fresh thyme
  • 5 sprigs fresh rosemary
  • 3 large lemons

Meat, Eggs & Dairy

  • 6 lamb shanks, about 1-1/4 lb. each
  • 5 large eggs
  • 9 oz. goat cheese, in log shape
  • 1/2 pint heavy cream
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) butter

Other Groceries

  • 1 baguette
  • 8 cups homemade or low-salt canned chicken or vegetable stock
  • 1 bottle full-bodied, dry red wine, such as Merlot or Cabernet Sauvignon
  • 2 cups dried white beans, such as Great Northern
  • 1/2 cup niçoise or other good-quality black olives
  • 2 oz. chopped walnuts

Pantry Staples

  • 7-3/4 oz. (1-3/4 cups) all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 oz. (1/2 cup) confectioner’s sugar
  • 3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup sherry vinegar
  • 2 bay leaves
  • Herbes de Provence (3/4 tsp.)
  • Kosher salt
  • Black peppercorns

The Menu

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