Gigot de Sept Heures – Seven Hour Lamb

The precise translation of this recipe is Seven Hour Leg of Lamb, but do not let the name of this dish intimidate you. This slow-cooked leg of lamb can be put in the oven at noon and essentially ignored until dinner.  In the meantime, the meat will slow-cook at a low temperature in its juices and red wine, perfumed and infused with herbs, root vegetables and lots of garlic.  The finished result is comfort food at its best: meat falling of the bone, so tender you can eat it with a spoon, accompanied by a rustic sauce consisting of the braised vegetables, wine and pan juices.

The preparation of Gigot de Sept Heures was originally meant to make use of tough older mutton meat.  Long slow cooking would tenderize it, allowing the connective tissues to break down, creating a rich sauce when cooked.  (This method is similar to the origin of Coq au Vin, which makes use of roosters or coqs.)  Some may argue that this preparation does not do justice to a leg of lamb, which is also delicious simply roasted or grilled with garlic and herbs.  If you feel this way, then try preparing this recipe with a stew or braise cut of lamb such as the shoulder or shank.

Gigot de Sept Heures

1 hour to prepare + 6 hours in the oven

Serves 6-8

1 leg of lamb with bone, 5-6 lbs. (2.5-3 kg.)
8 cloves of garlic, peeled
1/4 cup (60 ml.) olive oil
3 large carrots, peeled, cut in chunks
2 medium yellow onions, peeled, quartered
2 tomatoes, peeled*, seeded, quartered
1 bouquet garni (thyme, bayleaf, parsley)
1 cup (240 ml.) red wine
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Fresh thyme and rosemary sprigs

Prepare the lamb:

Preheat oven to 400 F. (200 C.)

Trim fat from lamb, leaving 1/4″ layer.
Mince 3 garlic cloves and smear over lamb.  Generously salt and pepper lamb.  Place in a Dutch oven or baking pan.  Surround lamb with carrots, onion, tomatoes, remaining garlic cloves.  Drizzle olive oil over lamb and vegetables.  Roast in oven, uncovered, 30 minutes.  Reduce oven temperature to 350 F. (180 C.)  Roast additional 30  minutes.

Remove pan from oven and reduce oven temperature to 250 F. (125 C.)
Transfer lamb to a plate.  Add bouquet garni and red wine to baking pan. Bring to a boil on stove over medium heat, scraping up caramelized bits from bottom of pan.  Return lamb to pan.  Cover pan with lid or aluminum foil.  Return to oven.  Cook 6 hours.

When lamb is finished, remove pan from oven.  Transfer lamb to a cutting board, cover loosely with aluminum foil. Discard bouquet garni from vegetable mixture.  Blend or purée vegetables, wine and collected lamb juice in batches.

Slice lamb and arrange on warm serving platter or dinner plates.  Spoon some of the sauce over.  Garnish with rosemary or thyme sprigs. Serve with remaining sauce in a bowl on the side.

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