Second Chance.

Last weekend, lured in by the language describing gigot de sept heures (French food writer Camille Labro’s family recipe for Provençal leg of lamb), I tried another recipe from Saveur. “In the end,” she’s quoted as saying, “the lamb should be confit: caramelized, sticky to the teeth, almost melting.”

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The Saveur author promised that the dish would fill my kitchen “with a heady aroma of herbs, garlic, wine, and braising lamb,” and really, between those two statements, what meat-eater could resist?

The hands-on activity was minimal. After massaging with olive oil, salt, and pepper and browning in a Dutch oven, the leg goes into an oval casserole (or, in my case, roasting pan) on a bed of rosemary, thyme, and garlic cloves, plus savory if you can find it (I couldn’t). Then, you deglaze the Dutch oven with a bottle of wine and two cups of water, scraping up the browned bits, and pour the liquid into the casserole. Cover the whole thing with aluminum foil and stick it in the oven, where it cooks on low heat for seven hours. Other than basting frequently, that’s all the work required.

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Though the recipe was a bit hazy on a few details (i.e., when you remove the foil, flip the lamb and continue to cook, do you put the foil back on or leave it uncovered? I left it uncovered, but maybe it would’ve been juicier if I’d put the foil back on?), I couldn’t complain about the results. When the meat was practically falling off the bone, I served it with stewed white beans, thickened by a purée of raw garlic, olive oil and crème fraiche, and braised brussels sprouts, simmered stove-top in a sauce of brown sugar and mustard. The gaminess of the lamb was enhanced by earthy rosemary and thyme; the rich, creamy beans were offset perfectly, if I do say so myself, by the tangy-sweet sprouts.

Sunday dinners don’t get much better than this.

Seven-Hour Leg of Lamb
From Saveur, October 2009

For the lamb:
1  4-lb. shank end leg of lamb or a 4-lb. piece of shoulder, trimmed
3 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1  750-ml bottle dry white wine
20 cloves garlic, unpeeled
10 sprigs each fresh rosemary,
thyme, and savory
5 fresh or dried bay leaves

For the beans:
2 cups dried white beans, preferably cannellini or white coco, soaked overnight
5 cloves garlic, smashed
3 sprigs fresh thyme and parsley and a bay leaf tied together with kitchen twine
10 whole cloves
1 large onion, halved
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
2 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
2 tbsp. crème fraîche

1. Cook the lamb: Heat oven to 300˚. Rub lamb with oil and season generously with salt and pepper. Heat a 6-qt. Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add lamb and cook, turning occasionally, until browned on all sides, about 12 minutes. Transfer lamb to a plate. Add wine and 2 cups water to the Dutch oven; scrape up browned bits from bottom of pot. Nestle garlic and herbs into a large oval casserole; place lamb on top of herbs; add pan juices from Dutch oven. Cover lamb with foil; transfer to oven and roast, basting frequently, for 3 1⁄2 hours. Uncover, flip lamb, and continue to cook, basting frequently, until lamb is very tender, 3–3 1⁄2 more hours. Transfer to a rack and let cool for 20 minutes.

2. Meanwhile, prepare the beans: About 1 1⁄2 hours before the lamb is done, drain beans and transfer to a 4-qt. saucepan along with 6 cups water, 4 cloves garlic, and the herb bundle. Insert the cloves into the onion and add to the pot. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer until beans are tender, about 1 hour. Remove pot from heat and season with salt and pepper. Discard herbs and strain beans, reserving cooking liquid. Transfer 2 cups beans, 1⁄4 cup cooking liquid, oil, crème fraîche, and remaining garlic clove to a blender and purée. Stir puréed bean mixture and about 1 cup of the cooking liquid back into pot and cover to keep warm until lamb is cooked. Serve the lamb sliced or torn into chunks, alongside the beans.

Braised Brussels Sprouts in Mustard Sauce
From Shape, November 2009

1 pound brussels sprouts
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/3 cup minced shallots
1/2 teaspoon salt (optional)
1/3 cup water, divided
1/4 cup mustard
2 tablespoons brown sugar
Freshly ground black pepper

1. Cut off the base of a sprout with a sharp knife. Slice a piece from one side of the sprout. Place it cut side down and cut it crosswise into about 5 slices. Repeat with all the sprouts.

2. Heat a large, heavy skillet over medium for 1 minute. Add olive oil and swirl to coat skillet.

3. Add shallots; sauté for 2 minutes. Stir in sprouts, salt (if using), and 3 tablespoons water; spread everything evenly across the pan. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and cook for 5 minutes.

4. Meanwhile, combine mustard, brown sugar, and remaining water in a small bowl; stir until blended. Once sprouts have cooked for 5 minutes, pour mustard mixture over them and stir. Reduce heat to low, cover, cook for 3 minutes, then stir. Remove from heat or, if you prefer, cook for 5 minutes more—the sprouts will get browner and more intensely flavored. Serve hot or warm with black pepper.

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