Braised Lamb

We haven’t been cooking very much during the early spring. It must have been spring fever. Or cabin fever. Or cat scratch fever. Or some other blood-born illness driving our internal temperatures above the normal 98.6 that compelled us to go out so often since I don’t know when. Maybe it started in Mexico and kept rolling from there. Coming home from vacation can affect one’s appetites and behavior. Contented/Restless is something I am always wrestling with. When I am away, I long for the comforts of home, and the opposite. Finally realizing it was time to settle in and cook a real meal before wonderful summer swings through in her dresses, I thumbed through the magazines, made a shopping list and drove down to Hannaford with my Jeep full of reusable bags and a mind of ideas for supper.

I bought some arugula for an upcoming experiment and ground turkey because we are having a love affair with turkey burgers I don’t even want to talk about. Then it hit me. It is the perfect time of year to cook lamb. It is appropriate for all paschal feasts and it’s still chill enough that having the oven on all day is not problematic. I had found an old Saveur recipe that sounded intriguing and when I happened upon a 3 lb leg at the butcher counter, I determined to make a braised dinner. It was incredibly simple and incredibly satisfying. It made the house smell amazing. The lamb essentially cooked itself while I typed and took a bubble bath. When it was done it had become a beautiful beast of innocence that literally fell of the bone. Let me tell you how I did it.

Braised Leg of Lamb
adapted from Saveur

Ingredients

  • 3 lb leg of lamb
  • olive oil
  • salt and pepper
  • one bottle of white wine
  • rosemary, oregano, and mint
  • 14 cloves, or a whole head of garlic

Method

First, let me clarify, or quality this. The magazine’s orignal recipe called this dish a seven hour lamb. I sensed that this was too long a cooking time and the comments confirmed that about 4 hours in a 250 degree oven was a likelier scenario for this cut of meat today. Before it went in the oven, the lamb needed seasoning, etc. In a large dutch oven, bottom covered in olive oil, I browned the salted and peppered leg on all sides and removed to a board. Then into the pot went the bottle of wine, peeled garlic cloves and stalks of herbs, which I had growing in my window sill garden. I scraped up the bits with a wooden spoon and returned the lamb to the pot. Then into a preheated 250 degree oven went the covered dish, after which I basted the leg every hour for four hours.

I took the lamb from the pan and place it on the cutting board so I could make a sauce. I strained the herbs and garlic but left the bone while the juice reduced into a grassy gravy. It suited the lamb divinely, which was easily spooned into pieces. I served this with buttered, Iraqi-style flatbread I found at Hannaford and a dollop of sour cream and cucumber dip.

Cooking like this after time spent away feels cozy and grounding and life-affirming. We welcome spring in Maine.

Jillian Bedell

Jillian Bedell is a writer and mother living in a farmhouse in Cushing, Maine. She is very good at talking about herself in the third person. She is co-author of Eating in Maine: At Home, On the Town, and On the Road.

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