My father loves lamb. I, on the other hand, have never been wild about it. I found the favour really strong. However, considering that I don’t see my father as often as I would like and he was visiting over the holidays, I decided to make him a special treat. I couldn’t wait. After all, isn’t surprising someone part of the fun of cooking? I decided to make Julia Child’s marinated lamb recipe and was fully confident that he would love it. After all, we ARE talking about Julia.
So when my husband was kind enough to go to the butcher’s for me to get our leg I was rather surprised to get a phone call from him saying that the legs were smaller…much smaller. That large legs are not to be found. I told him not to worry, to get two legs and that would be enough for my parents and us. Still, it was a surprise to see them when he came home. They were like two good sized turkey legs. This is a photo of them before going into the oven:
But I didn’t worry. I was planning appetizers and an eggplant casserole (Julia’s also), so nobody was about to go hungry.
I marinated them for a week. I turned them. The day came for my parents to arrive and I put them in the oven. I made sure to put them in the oven just as my husband picked them up from the train station. The smell began to emanate from the oven when they walked in the door. As the smell got stronger, my father said that the house smelled wonderful but that he couldn’t identify what it was. (Later he told me he couldn’t remember the last time he had eaten lamb). Even I, Miss “I Don’t Like Lamb”, couldn’t believe the smell.
When we sat down for an early dinner and I presented the lamb, his jaw dropped.
I was thrilled and I must say that considering the smell and appearance, my desire to taste it was peaked!
It wasn’t just my father who was surprised that day. We ALL were. The flavour was impeccable. And honestly, the method of preparing it is so simple, I just have to share it. Maybe one of you will be surprised, surprise someone else or both!
* I halved the ingredients and used a simple Spanish red wine.
* I followed Julia’s instructions for preparing a leg of lamb for cooking. These are available online and vary according to the part of the lamb you are preparing. I just carefully removed the fat with a sharp knife and discarded it.
*I have included Julia’s instructions for roasting.
*Use a meat thermometer.
GIGOT EN CHEVREUIL [Leg of Lamb or Mutton Marinated in Red Wine]
A large well-aged leg of lamb or a leg of young mutton marinated for several days in wine will taste very much like a marinated leg of venison. It is roasted and served, like venison, with a sauce poivrade or chevreuil. Braised red cabbage with chestnuts, and a purée of celery root and potatoes go well with it, plus a good red Burgundy wine. Any cold sliced leftovers will be delicious. Since the meat is marinated for a relatively long period of time, it takes on a definitely gamy taste— which is the whole reason for the recipe. The first marinade vegetables are cooked, therefore, so they will not turn sour.
Marinade Cuite [Cooked Wine Marinade]
1 cup thinly sliced onions
1 cup thinly sliced carrots
⅓ cup thinly sliced celery
2 halved cloves garlic
½ cup olive oil
A 3-quart enameled saucepan with cover.
Cook the vegetables slowly in the olive oil in the covered saucepan for 5 minutes without allowing them to brown.
6 cups full-bodied, young red wine: Mâcon, Côtes du Rhône, Beaujolais, Burgundy, Chianti
1 ½ cups red wine vinegar
1 Tb salt
1 tsp peppercorns
5 parsley sprigs
2 bay leaves
1 Tb rosemary
½ tsp juniper berries, [I used dried juniper berries]if available, or ¼ cup gin
A 7- to 8-pound leg of well aged lamb or young mutton
Add the wine, the vinegar, and all the rest of the ingredients. Simmer, partially covered, for 20 minutes. Allow the marinade to cool completely before using it.
Marinating and Roasting the Lamb Prepare the lamb for cooking as described earlier. It may be boned if you wish. Place it in an enameled, pyrex, porcelain, or stainless steel bowl, roaster, or tub just large enough to hold it. Pour the marinade over it. Turn and baste the lamb 3 or 4 times a day for 4 to 5 days at room temperature, for 6 to 8 days if it is refrigerated.[ Mine was refrigeratted] Drain the lamb for half an hour or more on a rack. Just before roasting, dry it thoroughly with paper towels.
* TIMING FOR ROAST LAMB AND MUTTON
Lamb and mutton cooked in the French manner are seared for 15 minutes in a 450-degree oven, then the roasting is continued in a 350-degree oven until the meat is frankly rare, rosy, and juicy. If you prefer lamb well done, do not go over a meat-thermometer reading of 160 degrees or the meat will lose much of its juice and flavor. Medium, from bright to pale pink, would be 140 to 150. A boned leg or shoulder will weigh approximately 30 per cent less than a bone-in piece, but its cooking time per pound usually more than doubles, depending on the thickness of the meat. The estimates in the following list are based on unchilled meat, and the recipes refer to unboned meat unless otherwise specified.
A 6-pound leg or shoulder, bone in Rare— 1 to 1 ¼ hours (10 to 12 minutes per pound) Meat Thermometer Reading— 125 to 130 degrees
Medium to Well Done— 1 ¼ to 1 ½ hours (13 to 15 minutes per pound) Meat Thermometer Reading— 145 to 160 degrees
A 4-pound piece of boned and rolled leg or shoulder Rare— 1 ¾ to 2 hours (25 to 30 minutes per pound) Meat Thermometer Reading— 125 to 130 degrees
Medium to Well Done— 2 to 2 ¼ hours (30 to 35 minutes per pound) Meat Thermometer Reading— 145 to 160 degrees
All I can say is..”Thank you Julia, for once again opening my eyes!”