I’m dreaming of juicy leg of lamb, which brings me to this post. Sometimes the best gifts are the simple ones. No bells and whistles, glossy pages, or shiny anything. There is definitely beauty in simplicity. No, I didn’t get a leg of lamb for Christmas. I am talking about a cookbook I received last Spring with some delicious yet simple recipes. The book was a gift from my friend Helene’s parents who came from France to visit their daughter who was doing a one year stint in the US as a Fulbright student. The recipes within are ones that a family would make for a leisurely Sunday family dinner. The lovely book is laid out like a school notebook with a font that imitates cursive script, and charming pen and ink drawings. This book is a treasure.
OK, no need to keep you in suspense any longer, today my offering, herbed slow cooked leg of lamb, is inspired by a recipe I found in the beautiful book I just told you about. This is a hearty Provencal dish, perfect for a the cold winter nights we are experiencing in the north. The leg of lamb is accompanied by cannellini beans seasoned a bit like the delicious cassoulet you can find on my blog.
I absolutely love leg of lamb; it’s a shame that it is not as popular in the U.S. I really don’t understand why. In my opinion it is better than beef. Two summers ago we traveled through Ireland, and I certainly got my fill. I also noticed something interesting about their rearing of lamb: the animals are set out to pasture to eat grass! Yes, grass, like nature intended them to. Needless to say, the taste is amazing. We discovered that sheep are marked with a color: red or blue. These markings allow for quick identification among farmers whose fields are usually adjacent to each other.
Of great importance to this dish is the bouquet garni (garnished bouquet)– a mixture of herbs placed in a cheese cloth, tied with twine and dropped into the cooking pot. A bouquet garni is typical of French cooking. There is really no set recipe for a bouquet garni, but some of the most common herbs used are: parsley, basil, rosemary, and tarragon.
The leg of lamb I am preparing today is made in a dutch oven, a very traditional way of cooking lamb. For the seasonings, “less is more” as the old adage goes. With just a few herbs, and the old salt and pepper, a wonderful and aromatic flavor is achieved.
So, here’s a little bit of “lamb history” just for ewe, I mean you! According to my research, sheep were one of the first animals to be domesticated, roughly nine to eleven thousand years ago. Sheep proved to be indeed a phenomenal, and profitable animal to herd; it provided wool for clothing or trading, milk, cheese (as a by product of milk), and meat. Ancient civilizations such as the Sumerians, Babylonians, and the Persians relied on sheep for trade and self sufficiency. Sheep were instrumental in the development of the Greek civilization. Feta, anybody?
Herbed Slow Cooked Leg of Lamb
Slow cooked in a dutch oven for a tender and succulent herbed French style boneless leg of lamb.
- To make the cannellini beans: In a saucepan saute onion, ,bacon and garlic until translucent. Add the beans, vegetable stock, and tomato paste. Stir well and bring to a boil. Add the bay leaf and the rest of the ingredients.
- Cover and cook on low for about 1 hour.
- To make the lamb: Make multiple slits in the lamb and insert pieces of garlic inside the slits. sprinkle with salt and pepper.
- With butcher twine, tie the sprigs of thyme and parsley together; this will be your bouquet garni.
- Heat oil in a Dutch oven and quickly brown the lamb on all sides. Turn down the heat.
- Add the beef stock, and the rest of the ingredients.
- Turn down the heat to medium and cook for about one hour, basting regularly.
- Serve with the beans and a side salad.