Seven Hours to Heaven
Posted on August 16, 2005 by Aun
I love slow-cooked meats. I love how after spending several hours gently cooking away in the oven, a tough piece of meat becomes buttery soft, so soft that it falls off the bone with no more than a gentle nudge of a spoon. I love the concentration of natural flavours in a slow-cooked cut that’s been basting away in its own juices in a tightly sealed cocotte. Which is why, when I saw a recipe for “Gigot de Sept Heures” (lamb leg cooked for seven hours) in Anthony Bourdain’s Les Halles Cookbook, I knew I had to try it.
S and I had, earlier in the week, invited a few friends over for Sunday lunch. But as late as Friday night, we still weren’t sure what we were going to make. Knowing that we needed to make a quick decision, and mostly because we intended to do all of our grocery shopping Saturday morning, we quickly put together what we felt was a fun and not too taxing (to make) menu.
Ever since dining at Opia in Hong Kong, I have been obsessing over Teage Ezard’s Potato Gnocchi Gratin, which he serves with a Taleggio cheese sauce, walnuts, sliced pear and chives. We’d just picked up Mr Ezard’s book, so we decided to try making that as a first course. Mr Bourdain’s seven hour leg of lamb was an easy choice to make for our main. Not only did we like the idea of serving a traditional Sunday roast, but the recipe looked really easy to make. For dessert, I convinced S to make a pecan pie and some maple syrup ice cream.
Saturday morning, we picked up a beautiful 2.8 kg leg of lamb (bone-in) from the Swiss Butchery. For those Singaporeans who haven’t been there or people not residing on these shores, the Swiss Butchery is Singapore’s best European butcher. It has, in my opinion, the choicest selection of meats in town. It’s also hugely popular. When we arrived at 1015am the place was packed. James, one of the butchers who frequently serves us, told us that when they opened at 10am, there was already a crowd of people waiting outside.
Mr Bourdain’s lamb, as the name implies, takes seven hours to cook. S wanted to serve the pecan pie hot from the oven, which meant, that for a lunch starting around 1230ish, I had to pop the leg in the oven sometime by 5am latest. Saturday evening, I marinated it, first by making multiple incisions and sliding in pieces of sliced garlic into the cuts. I used up four cloves of garlic for this. Then I generously salted and peppered the leg and rubbed it with a quarter cup of olive oil. I saran-wrapped the marinated leg and popped it in the fridge, taking it out again around midnight, when I went to bed.
Surprisingly, I woke up before my alarm went off. It was 415am and my alarm was set for 430am. I quickly and quietly turned the alarm off so that it wouldn’t wake S up (hoo boy, is she not a morning person!) and slipped sleepily into the kitchen. Alix and Sascha, loyal Golden Retrievers and ever-curious about anything that has to do with food, followed me.
I preheated the oven the 150 Degrees C while I prepped the aromatics for the roast. Into S’s huge 40cm Staub cocotte, I tossed 4 peeled and halved carrots; 2 onions, sliced up; 20 cloves of garlic; 2 leeks, halved; and 225ml of a dry white wine. On top of this went the lamb leg, over which I added a drizzle more olive oil and a sprinkle of salt. At this point, Mr Bourdain asks us cover the cocotte and seal it with a ring of dough, placed around the area where the lid meets the pot. He tells us to make a dough from 225ml flour and 225ml water. I have to say while the rest of the recipe worked perfectly, his ratios here are way off. All I got was a sticky, slightly runny paste, to which I had to add another 200ml flour in order to get a dough of the right consistency. Once sealed, the cocotte went in the oven for 7 hours. At which point, Alix, Sascha and I all headed back to the bed.
I woke up again at around 730ish to the incredibly heady aromas of slowly roasting lamb. It was deliciously dreamy. All I could do for a while was lie in bed, breathing in the rich smells that had filled the house. S had also woken up, Turning to me, eyes brighter than usual for such an early hour, the first thing she said to me was, “yum!”
For a second there, I thought she might mean me and I was about to get lucky. Silly me. Of course, she meant the lamb.
And it was yum. In fact, it was perfect. Soft, rich, and incredibly tender. The vegetables were also perfect, especially the leeks and the carrots. This is one dish I plan on making again and again.