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.

P.S. Random Note: Our first ever Singapore’s food bloggers lunch made the national newspaper today! Here’s the link to a scanned copy of the article.

About Aun Koh

Aun has always loved food and travel, passions passed down to him from his parents. This foundation, plus a background in media, pushed him to start Chubby Hubby in 2005. He loves that this site allows him to write about the things he adores--food, style, travel, his wife and his bouncing baby boy!

What Others Are Saying

  1. eyes August 16, 2005 at 10:05 pm

    Great post! I can almost smell the lamb too. Gosh I wish I live in your house..

  2. Colin August 16, 2005 at 10:12 pm

    Oh that looks really delectable! I love the Les Halles cookbook, and I’ve wanted to try the Gigot de Sept Heures, but seven hours of cooking seemed really daunting.

  3. enuwy August 16, 2005 at 11:35 pm

    That’s a great story – it’s such a great image – a guy waking at 4 to chop vegetables and roast lamb. And then to wake up to the smells of one’s fruits of labour. Interspersed with such sweet things as switching the alarm off so as not to wake the wife. As a female myself, I greatly approve. hehehe.

  4. Skrat August 17, 2005 at 12:54 am

    Looks yummy! I have also heard good things about the Les Halles Cookbook. Question i have though, do we have to cook the lamb in a cast iron pot like the Staub? Or can it be a baking dish with a lid over it?

  5. Chubby Hubby August 17, 2005 at 12:07 pm

    eyes: Thanks. It was a lovely smell. If only I could bottle it. Or maybe convince a company to make roasted lamb aromatherapy candles.

    colin: It’s easy so long as your oven can cope. I’d never have been able to do this on my previous range — damn thing had a power timer for the oven.

    enuwy: :-) We guys try our best.

    skrat: Bourdain asks for a “Dutch oven with lid”, so I guess any casserole pot can do. Not sure a baking dish would fit a whole lamb leg though.

  6. tara August 17, 2005 at 10:57 pm

    How delicious this sounds! A perfect fall dish, indeed. I cannot wait until the weather turns a bit cooler so that I can give it a try – and then I can also justify the purchase of a cocotte. What would you suggest for a starch side? Potatoes? Polenta? Bread?
    How did the gnocchi turn out?

  7. Augustusgloop August 18, 2005 at 8:00 am

    Wow. How I dream that one day I will awake to the smell of a slow-roasting leg of lamb with all the trimmings…

  8. Cindy Fredericka August 18, 2005 at 11:44 am

    May I propose U get Bill Gates to create a software whereby it can capture de roast smell. N all yr readers could smell it with a click on de mouse! Dreaming away…..
    S reaction to the smell of de roast is so funny! Cracked me up!
    Great to know your floggers lunch was feature.

  9. babe_kl August 18, 2005 at 11:55 am

    cindy… aromavision?? hehehe really salute chubby hubby

  10. Chubby Hubby August 18, 2005 at 2:40 pm

    Tara: Well, S doesn’t let me eat too much starch these days, but I would propose a Gratin Dauphinois or a nice soft polenta. We served the lamb with a Peas a la Francaise from one of Raymond Blanc’s cookbooks. The gnocchi was good. We used Ratte potatoes, which made them really sticky. It was only the second time I made gnocchi by hand; the first time was a disaster.

    Augustus: :-)

    Cindy: Thanks. Click’n’Sniff? Maybe we should get some Singapore biotech company on the case. Let’s call A*Star!

    Babe: Yah… Hmmmmmm… very Charlie & The Chocolate Factory, eh (sorry, Augustus’ name keeps reminding me of the book, and the movie which I just watched this past weekend)?

  11. cin August 18, 2005 at 4:06 pm

    Mmmmmm…. That’s dedication, CH!

  12. eatzycath August 18, 2005 at 5:32 pm

    i LOVED using the Staub Oval Dish that I won at the lucky draw for the S’pore floggers lunch – now reading your post on wonderful meat roasting, i am so so tempted by the Staub cocotte – but so so expensive…

  13. Cate August 18, 2005 at 9:41 pm

    I love slow-cooked meats and meals too – thanks for the recipe!

  14. tara August 19, 2005 at 12:07 am

    Thanks for the suggestions. I just thought something creamy and comforting would make this a lovely fall-evening dish (and my S has a love of polenta and potatoes). I’ve picked out my cocotte, and will be ordering shortly. Come cooler nights, I’ll be trying this.

  15. megwoo August 19, 2005 at 7:15 am

    Sounds amazing. I love slow cooked foods as well!

  16. ChubbyCat August 19, 2005 at 8:47 am

    Mmmmmm, slow pot roasted lamb infused with garlic, what a heavenly combination!

  17. S August 19, 2005 at 9:30 am

    tara: polenta or mash flavoured with parmesan and rosemary would go beautifully with the lamb.

  18. tara August 19, 2005 at 10:27 pm

    Thanks S, that sounds perfect. I will report back come fall.
    Since it was mentioned that the cocotte was yours – how do you like it? I’ve been torn between the Staub and the Le Crueset. Is yours enameled? Sorry for all the questions.

  19. S August 19, 2005 at 11:01 pm

    Hi Tara: CH just likes to say that because I made the decision to part with serious moolah for it. He uses the Staub as much as I do. Both brands are great. I find the exterior of our Le Creusets a little delicate (one got chipped in a kitchen accident), and the enameled interior does tend to get stained. Our Staub has a matte black enameled interior which has a pore-like quality (it supposedly develops a natural non-stickiness. We haven’t had ours long enough for me to confirm that claim). I also like that the lid has these little nubs that encourage the moisture in the cocotte to drip back onto your food. The Staub cast iron also seems sturdier. But it’s a really personal preference.

  20. tara August 19, 2005 at 11:43 pm

    I do believe, S, that with such and endorsement, I’m going with the Staub! Many thanks, though my S might not be thankful when he sees the bill.

  21. S August 20, 2005 at 10:33 am

    Tara: Whether it’s Le Creuset or Staub, they do last more than one lifetime (I’ve met people who’ve inherited theirs from their parents), so the ‘cost per use’ is really low in the long run :)

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