Gigot de Sept Heures, LA Times - DON'T DO IT!!
In the LA Times food section last week was a pair of recipes for the fabled seven-hour lamb, on the same day that shank portions of leg went on sale at How's market. It was obviously meant to be! says I. Okay, there were a couple of things that bothered me about the recipes, but they were from ANNE WILLAN, for Pete's sake! So she wants me to start cooking raw meat in a pot full of cold water - surely she would not lead us astray?
I really need to listen to myself more often...
Just to review some basics: placing meat in cold water and then bringing it to a boil is what you do when you want good broth, not when you want good meat. Covering the meat with water, hot or cold, is not braising, it is stewing.
I also should have looked elsewhere: the recipe in "La Cuisine de France" by Mapie, France's equivalent to "Joy of Cooking", calls for the meat to be browned in the pot in oil, then you add a mere 4 1/2 cups of hot bouillon, braise four hours at 250, put in some vegetables and braise another three. James Beard, whose recipe (in "The New James Beard") is called "Spoon Lamb", has us roast a boned leg with the bones and veges for an hour, then put into a covered pot with some wine and braise six hours at 200.
So we had a somewhat disappointing dinner - we managed to pick out the meat from the fattier parts, which had stayed approximately succulent - and now I have a bunch of vegetables I'll have to eat myself, as Mrs. O can't stand turnips or cooked onion, and tonight I'll turn the rest into a shepherd's pie. Live'n'learn...
There's also a recipe, I think, in Elizabeth David's Mediterranean cookbook or French Province cookbook (I have a giant book made from several of her books so can never remember the titles).
Also, has anybody looked in Paula Wolfert's Med. slow cooking book?
Btw, Will, the cold water lamb method sounds more like a torture than a recipe.
Paula Wolfert's recipe in Slow Med. Kitchen for 7 hour leg of lamb has you immerse the leg in boiling water for 15 minutes (to kill off surface bacteria). Then you brown it, add Cognac, flame it off, add ~1 c of wine, seal the pot, and put it in a 200 degree oven for 7 hours. Oh, and you throw in several cloves of garlic before the Cognac.
Bourdain's Les Halles book calls for the leg of lamb to be studded all over with garlic, rubbed with olive oil and seasoned with salt and pepper. Then put in a casserole with a cup of wine, bouquet garnie, carrots and onions. Then he wants you to make a flour and water dough to seal the lid of the casserole closed and then into a 300F oven for 7 hours.
I have not made it yet because a leg of lamb and 2 people comes close to lasting forever. Need an occasion for that.
I was thinking that the recipe sounded somewhat unappetizing. I've found most recipes that describe the great joys of simplicity -- cooking meat forever in plain spring water with some vegetables -- aren't all they're cracked up to be. I have some lamb shanks in my freezer and think they'll be headed for the crock pot with some white beans.
I've never made this, and while I can see doing it with lamb shoulder or some other cheap cut, it seems like an odd use of a fairly expensive piece of meat that already tastes great roasted rare -- like making stew out of a rib roast. I know it's a traditional recipe with a lot of romance around it, and maybe if I had more lamb legs than I knew what to do with I'd try it, but I've never had that luck. Can anyone who's made it affirmatively say that it really IS great and worth using the leg? Just curious.