Laurent will be away this weekend, on a work-related trip (because somebody forgot that it was Easter weekend, and booked the trip for everyone months ago, and nobody realized this until it was too late). As a result, we celebrated Easter a little early.
I’m not sure I’ve ever had lamb for Easter before. Easter has always been one of the lesser holidays in my family: we’d go to church, I’d get a chocolate egg and/or bunny, and that was mostly that. If we ever did have lamb, it was probably lamb chops: it wasn’t in my mother’s habit to cook up large pieces of meat, so leg of lamb or shoulder roast were not staples in her kitchen.
And now that I’m usually celebrating Easter with Laurent’s family, my chances of being served lamb are even smaller: Laurent’s father dislikes red meat, so he tends to choose the non-traditional route (see last year’s cold salmon platter). But since I’m celebrating Easter twice this year (once on Thursday, once on Sunday – where, in an even more defiant break with tradition, Laurent’s parents are taking me to lunch at a Chinese restaurant), I decided that one of the meals had to be leg of lamb.
Since we were ahead of schedule, there was still plenty of frozen lamb at the market. I hesitated on the cooking method; finally, rather than dry-roasting it to the requisite pinkish hue, I braised it for four hours. Regular basting ensured that it was flavoured and moist all over.
I realize it looks monstrous. It was also hell to carve, which explains the sub-par plating. But rest assured, it tasted great!
Overall, it all went smoothly, and we were both pleased with the result. It certainly wasn’t raw-pink on the inside, but it wasn’t dry, either. If we’d had the time, I would’ve like to braise it even longer, and see what would happen – but we were starving, and also I wasn’t feeling brave enough to experiment with a giant, 30-dollar cut of meat. The basting liquid, in addition to keeping the meat interesting as it cooked, also turned out to make a great sauce, thanks to the garlic, tomatoes, and fresh herbs. And I tried a new technique for roasting potatoes, which was also a hit: definitely the crispiest non-fried potatoes I’ve ever made! Just let me tweak it a little to make it more interesting, and I’ll be sure to post it.
So, even though I wish Laurent didn’t have to go on that trip, it was still fun to have an opportunity to try out a traditional Easter meal – without all the relatives and pressure to shine!
Braised Leg of Lamb
Adapted from Christophe Felder’s Les meilleurs plats mijotés
One 2,5 kg (5 pound) leg of lamb
Two heads of garlic
4 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp butter, cut into small cubes
240 ml (1 cup) dry white wine
240 ml (1 cup) chicken stock
One 400 ml (1 2/3 cup) can of diced tomatoes
2 bay leaves
One bunch of fresh thyme
One bunch of fresh rosemary
3 French shallots, peeled
1 carrot, peeled and cut into four segments
Salt and pepper
Pre-heat oven to 150ºC (300ºF).
Cut three cloves of garlic lengthwise into segments, make incisions into the lamb and insert the pieces of garlic. Rub the lamb all over with olive oil, and season with salt and pepper. Place the meat in a large roasting pan, and sprinkle with the butter.
Pour the wine, stock, and tomatoes into the pan. Add the shallots, the carrot, and the remaining heads of garlic (don’t bother with separating and peeling the garlic, just lightly separate the cloves and put them in as they are). Season with salt and pepper all over, and toss in the bay leaves, thyme, and rosemary.
Bake for 4 hours, basting the lamb with the braising liquid every 45 minutes.