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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...

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  1. 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.

    1 Reply
    1. re: oakjoan

      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.

    2. 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.

      1. Long ago I read about someone goingto Audrey Hepburn's home for dinner, and having 7 hour lamb. I was intrigued, and later found this recipe which worked very well for me.


        I don't mean to imply this is Hepburn's recipe, just a good one for this dish!

        1. 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.

          1. 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.

            1. I just found my Hundred Glories of French Cooking book by Robert Courtine, one of my favorite food authors. I think he was food critic for Le Monde and I know he was friends with Craig Claiborne. This book is glorious if you can find it - probably out of print - I've had it for ages and ages. BUT, inside there's a recipe for Gigot a la Sept Heures! And here it is (tempted to say "VOYla!" as the do on America's Test Kitchen)

              1/4 lb. fat bacon
              1/4 lb. lean bacon
              1 leg of lamb (no weight here)
              5 oz. pork rind
              2 large onions
              salt and pepper
              bay leaf
              3 cups water
              2 cups white wine

              Cut the bacons into small strips. Lard the joint with them, then spike it with garlic.

              Cover the bottom of an earthenware casserole with pork rind. Add the onions, sliced into rings. Lay the joint on top, salt and pepper it, and add a bayleaf and pour in the water and 2 cup of the white wine. Cover the casserole with a plate, concave side uppermost. Stick the plate to the edges of the casserole with paper or a flour and water paste. Pour the other cup of white wine into the plate and cook, in a slow oven for 7 hours, or until very tender. If the wine in the plate evaporates, pour in more.

              NOTE: I don't get the wine in the plate deal. If it's concave side up, won't the wine run down into the dish, or at least into the flour and water paste? If it doesn't, how does any of it get into the dish?

              Courtine says that Alexandre Dumas may have invented this dish, which "is eaten with a spoon".

              I'd skip the flour/water paste part and just use a casserole with a good lid and some foil, then you wouldn't get the wine on the plate effect....whatever that means.

              1. Damn, I love it when you get this kind of response.

                There's a lot of stuff here to think about, and yes, my papa-in-law did raise a little hell about serving a gigot any way but garlicky blood-rare, but then you should have seen the steam rise off his head the time I told him I'd braised a tri-tip! That was fun, too.

                I will wait until those legs go on sale again and then try another version, probably Beard's because he is so very reliable and generally shares my tastes. In the meantime, I must say that the shepherd's pie I made from the leftovers (plus some peas and the mashed potatoes for the topping) was so good we pretty much wiped out two meals' worth at one sitting, so this was far from a total loss.

                3 Replies
                1. re: Will Owen

                  Will..........Like you, I thought the LA Times Gigot recipe sounded great. I rushed to Hows Market for a gorgeous leg of lamb, cognac, nice bottle of red wine and all the veggies. I can not tell you how disappointed I was with the results. I honestly feel my generic beef pot roast recipe is MUCH tastier than the Seven Hour Gigot. I spent at least $45.00 on all the ingredients........what a waste!!

                  1. re: mary c

                    Oh, jeeze, you did the expensive one, the d'hiver version! Poor baby...I deliberately picked the less expensive variant, but even then I had to buy a big bunch of parsley and a box of fairly expensive fresh thyme, just to make one lousy bouquet garni.

                    But wait, there's more: that somewhat boring meat did in fact achieve an apotheosis of sorts in the shepherd's pie. I chopped it up into small bite-size, chopped up the leftover carrots similarly, added half a one-pound bag of frozen baby peas and a pint of roux-thickened gravy made with that great broth and seasoned fairly heavily. Topped it with about two cups of mashed potato (made from those frozen little hockey-pucks you get at Trader Joe's) and baked it at 350 for 45 minutes, finishing with a pass under the broiler. There was easily two meals' worth there, but neither of us could resist having seconds, it was THAT good, and now there's just enough to fight over for lunch.

                    1. re: Will Owen

                      Yep! It cost a pretty penny. No yummy Shepherd's Pie for us. The version I made, called for blending the veggies with the cooking liquid. After doing that, I was left with this incredibly thick and blah tasting gravy. None of the ingredients, from the cognac, red wine and all of the veggies could be tasted. Even the lamb, which had been cooked for 7 hours in a bottle of wine and 1/2 c. cognac was pretty flavorless. Needless to say, that recipe is now in our local landfill.