If one thinks of Easter traditional family meal, there are immediately images of roast leg of lamb. Why not change to the 7-hour recipe, slow-cooked in the oven at low temperature? Quite long but very easy to make. The meat becomes so tender that you can even serve it with a tablespoon. Almost like a confit.
Traditional French recipe
French traditional recipe of lamb is often a leg of lamb, with cloves of garlic inserted and packed inside, baked in the oven while guests are already there, and served with green beans and flageolets, or a potato gratin.
And when it comes to serving, questions are always the same: Will it be cooked enough, even if you’ve been following the butcher’s instructions? Who will devote himself to cutting it? Who will choose well done or rare? With or without garlic? Although I love garlic (as you may have noticed with my garlic purée recipe), I find it here quite aggressive.
With this recipe prepared several hours in advance, or even the day before and reheated slowly, you have nothing to do when your guests are there. You can even let it cook longer if your appetizer is prolonged, with no risk of overcooking. The longer you leave it, the better it will taste.
Lamb becomes so tender that it can even be cut with a tablespoon, that’s why the French call it gigot à la cuillère, à la cuillère meaning with a spoon. Garlic cloves are eaten whole. They melt in the mouth, releasing a subtle and savory flavor. If you have a nice-looking casserole, you can even bring it to the table and open it in front of your guests at the last moment. It’ll be a great surprise for them and a success for you.
The story behind the dish
Seven-hour leg of lamb comes from the French Auvergne region (although Lyon and Bordeaux claim it). The initial ingredient was the leg of sheep rather than a lamb as this cooking process softens hard pieces of meat, from older animals. Like many stews, it was a peasant dish. It was often cooked overnight in the fireplace or even placed in the bread oven turned off but remaining hot for hours.
Make sure you won’t need your oven for the rest of the meal (side or dessert) as the 7-hour leg of lamb monopolizes your whole oven. You may serve it with a homemade potato purée and vegetables.
The only problem with this dish is that it’s not easy to take a nice picture of it!
Slow Cooked Seven-Hour Leg of Lamb
- 1 ovenproof lidded casserole (idealy a cast iron cocotte, if not a frying pan and a lidded container) of sufficient size for the leg of lamb. NB named pan in the recipe.
- 1 shank end leg of lamb
- 2 bacon slices 2 cm thick
- 2 carrots
- 2 onions
- celery optionnal
- 1 head garlic
- 250 ml dry white wine ± 1 cup
- 250 ml veal or chicken stock ± 1 cup
- 4 springs thyme
- 1 bay leaf
- salt and freshly ground pepper
- ollive oil
FIRST READ THE MAIN STEPS OF THE RECIPE
- Fry the meat and then the bacon on each side. Remove them and fry the chopped vegetables. Add stock and wine. Bake in the oven all ingredients for 7 hours.
- First make sure that the leg of lamb will fit in your cocotte. If not, get the butcher cut off the shank end or even remove it (but this is a pitty as bones enhance flavors).
- Preheat the oven to 120°C (250°F).
- Pour olive oil in the pan and heat. Be generous. Fry the leg of lamb for about 5 minutes on each side, until browned. Remove and place it into a plate. Sear briefly bacon on each side (1-2 minutes) then take it out as well.
- Mealwhile, prepare the aromatic garnish.
- Wash the carrots, peel and cut them into mirepoix (cut them into 4 lengthwise, then cut these pieces into small cubes).
- Peel the onions, cut them in half and chop them (in the same size as the carrots).
- Prepare garlic. Remove the outside thick skin of the head of garlic. Separate the head in cloves. Don’t remove the skin.
- When meat and bacon are removed, through in the pan the aromatic garnish (carrot, onion and garlic), season with salt and cook for about 2 to 3 minutes over medium heat. Often stir so that vegetables won’t stick to the pan. Then pour white wine, increase the heat until it simmers. Let it simmer until at least half of the white wine evaporates.
- Place the leg of lam on the vegetables, add one piece of bacon on each side. Add the veal stock, the thyme springs and the bay leaf. Add salt and ppper. Bring to the boil then remove from heat and cover your dish.
- Put your lidded casserole in the oven and forget it for 7 hours at 120°C (250°F).
Bon appétit !