08 February 2006

Seven-hour leg of lamb

This method of cooking a leg of lamb keeps catching my attention. A few weeks ago, I saw a chef on the French Cuisine TV demonstrate his method for preparing what in French is called un gigot de sept heures. Then one morning last week I heard food expert Jean-Pierre Coffe talk about it on a France Inter radio show.

I'm making it today. I had a gigot from one of our friend Gisèle's lambs in the freezer. No, this time I don't know what the lamb's name was. She usually does give us that piece of information, but neglected to this time. I didn't ask.

Here's how it's done. You brown the leg of lamb on all sides -- I browned it under the broiler. The recipe I have printed out calls for including a pied de veau, but I didn't find one of those yesterday at the Atac supermarket in Amboise, so I bought a pied de porc instead and am using that. I put it in the pan with the gigot to brown under the broiler. I hope the pig's foot produces a good amount of gelatin as it cooks, to enrich the sauce. I think it will.

Somebody asked me if I knew what the pig's name was. Ha ha ha.

The gigot, pied de porc, and vegetables before all the broth went in

While the meat is browning, you chop some carrots and celery and cook them in a wok or sauteuse with a couple of small onions, seven or eight shallots, and seven or eight garlic cloves, all peeled but left whole. Add a couple of tomatoes, peeled, seeded, and chopped (or not seeded if you don't want to -- I didn't). When the vegetables are starting to brown, deglaze the pan with a quart of veal broth if you have it -- I used turkey broth because that's what I had in the freezer. Chicken or vegetable broth would be good too.

When the gigot was browned a little, I poured the vegetables and stock over it in the pan and added some thyme, peppercorns, allspice berries, and bay leaves. I added another quart of broth so that the leg of lamb is sitting in a couple of inches of liquid. Then I covered the pan and put it in the oven.

Jean-Pierre Coffe and my Cuisine TV recipe both call for cooking the lamb for four to five hours in a slow oven (110ºC / 225ºF). Why do you call it a gigot de sept heures if you only cook it for five hours? the radio interviewer asked Coffe. Well, in the olden days it cooked on the edge of the stove or fireplace, where the temperature couldn't be regulated very precisely, Coffe said. It took longer back then. With today's ovens, five hours of cooking is enough.

To serve with the lamb, which should be falling off the bone when it's done -- one chef says you could eat it with a spoon -- I'm going to cook some haricots tendres de Californie that I bought at the supermarket yesterday. Have you ever heard of "tender beans from California"? I never had. They are actually dried baby lima beans, I think.

I guess this is another example of fusion cooking -- French techniques with American ingredients.

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P.S. The lamb and beans turned out great. Delicious. We put some harissa in part of the sauce and spooned that over the lamb, vegetables, and beans. The spiciness made it that much better.


  1. Ken the lamb looks fabulous..but could you eat it with a spoon? And I can't quite make out the wine you had with it.

  2. No, you couldn't really eat it with a spoon, which was fine with me. It was and is very good. Those California beans are good too -- I'll buy them again. The wine was a 2004 Bourgueil.


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