This month’s theme for Is My Blog Burning? is “French regional cuisine and a glass of wine”. It’s hosted by the marvelously talented Laura of Cucina Testa Rossa, who, as you might guess, has the great and enviable fortune of living in France.
For this month’s challenge, S and I dipped into a book we’ve owned for quite a while but hadn’t actually cooked from before. Paula Wolfert’s The Cooking of Southwest France is an excellent compendium of delicious regional recipes. Inspired by a gorgeous, fresh leg of lamb that we picked up at our favorite market, we decided to try making Ms Wolfert’s Roast Leg of Lamb in the Style of Bordeaux (Gigot a la Bordelaise).
From what I gather, lamb’s been a traditional meat, ceremonially eaten at Easter, in Bordeaux and other parts of France for centuries. Pairing wine with lamb is also classic. So, choosing lamb for this month’s challenge was sort of a no-brainer.
Ms Wolfert’s recipe incorporates vinegar and shallots, both in the cooking process and then as the basis for a sauce. While I was hesitant about this at first, the vinegar-based sauce was perfect. It’s tartness cut through the meatiness of the lamb as well as lifted the dish, adding a new and delicious dimension to it.
To go with the lamb, we polished off a prized bottle of Quintarelli Valpolicella, pictured above. I’d picked this up on my last trip to Venice (along with the other edible goodies in the photo). For the uninitiated, Quintarelli is one of Italy’s most-respected cult wine labels. Its Amarone is second to none, almost impossible to find, and ridiculously costly. Its Valpolicella is almost as hard to find, a tad bit cheaper, but equally stunning–robust, fruity, and powerful. It was the perfect wine to pair with our lamb.
Gigot a la Bordelaise
1 whole leg of lamb
2 large garlic cloves, peeled and cut into thin slivers
1 teaspoon course salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
2 tablespoons rendered duck or goose fat
2 tablespoons grapeseed oil
3/4 cup red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons finely chopped shallots
3/4 cup unsalted chicken stock
Trim off excess fat and tough outer skin from the lamb, leaving a thin layer of fat. Make about 10 incisions near the leg bone and insert garlic slivers. Rub the meat with salt and pepper, then coat with the fat and oil. Massage into the meat. Refrigerate, loosely covered with plastic wrap, for at least 3 hours or overnight. Remove from the refrigerator 2 to 3 hours before roasting.
About 2 hours before serving, preheat the oven to 500ºF. Place the lamb on a rack in a large roasting pan. Set the pan in the top third of the oven and roast for 25 minutes. Remove from the oven and let the lamb rest at room temperature for 30 minutes. Reduce the oven temperature to 350ºF.
Meanwhile, in a small nonreactive saucepan, combine the vinegar and shallots; bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer until reduced to 1/3 cup, about 20 minutes. Strain, reserving the shallots and vinegar separately.
Pour the vinegar and 1/2 cup water into the roasting pan. Return the lamb and roast, basting with the pan juices every 5 minutes, for 30 minutes, or until the internal temperature reaches 135º to 140ºF for medium-rare.
Remove the lamb to a carving board and let rest for 5 to 10 minutes. Meanwhile, make the shallot sauce: Add the stock and reserved shallots to the drippings in the roasting pan and bring to a boil on top of the stove, scraping up any brown bits from the bottom of the pan. Season lightly with salt and pepper. Slice the lamb and serve with the shallot sauce.