Gigot de Sept Heures – Seven Hour Lamb

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.

A French Country Menu: Beef Bourguignon


Beef Bourguignon

During the winter season I like to prepare rustic peasant-style food from the French countryside. These hearty dishes are made with staples from the land such as potatoes, root vegetables, bitter winter greens, cured meats and cheese.  My favorite is Beef Bourguignon, a stew consisting of a tough cut of beef slow-cooked in Burgundy wine until falling-apart tender, mingling with carrots, onions and mushrooms in a rich, savory stock.  It’s a delicious one-pot meal perfect for a cold night.  Try to make it one day in advance, so the flavors can develop overnight, and then enjoy the meal before a roaring fire.

Beef Bourguignon
Serves 6-8

5 tablespoons olive oil
3 lbs. beef chuck, cut in 1 1/2″ chunks
Salt and pepper
1/2 cup cognac

4 large carrots
1 large yellow onion, cut in large chunks
4 large garlic cloves, smashed
1 – 750 ml. bottle full-bodied red wine
1 cup beef stock
1 – 6 ounce can tomato paste
2 teaspoons dried thyme

10 oz. (300 g.) pearl onions, peeled
1/2 pound white mushrooms, halved
1 tablespoon brown sugar

Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil over medium-high heat in a large oven-proof pan with lid or Dutch-oven. Season beef all over with salt and pepper. Working in batches, add beef to pan in one layer and brown on all sides. Transfer to a bowl. Add cognac to pan and deglaze pan over medium-high heat, scraping up bits. Allow to reduce by half. Pour cognac over beef and set aside.

Preheat oven to 325 F. (170 C.)  Coarsely chop 2 carrots.  Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in same pan. Add chopped carrots, onion and garlic. Sauté 3 minutes over medium heat. Add beef, wine, stock, tomato paste, and thyme. (Beef should be covered by the wine and stock. If not, add more wine or stock to cover.)  Bring to boil, reduce heat to low and cook 2 minutes.  Cover and place in oven. Bake until meat is very tender 2 1/2 – 3 hours.

About 30 minutes before beef is done, cut remaining carrots in 1/2″ slices.  Steam or blanch carrots until crisp tender; drain. Sauté mushrooms and onions in a skillet with one tablespoon olive oil until light golden brown.

Remove beef from oven.  Strain liquid from stew into a saucepan. Separate meat from vegetables and discard vegetables. Boil liquid until sauce is reduced by 1/2 and has a sauce consistency, skimming fat from surface. Add sugar. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Pour sauce back over beef.   Add carrots, mushrooms and onions to stock. Simmer 15 minutes. Serve.

Beef bourguignon can be prepared up to 2 days in advance. Cover and refrigerate. Remove solidified fat from surface before reheating. Reheat over medium-low heat on stovetop, or in a 325 F. oven.

Before and After

I confess that when I first moved to Paris to study cooking, I was somewhat inflexible in terms of feeding myself.  Here I was, twenty-something, educated, professional, and, at least in my opinion, worldly. Now, this is my own small story, but I will dare say that I conformed to a rather structured, and, perhaps American, way of viewing diet and exercise: compulsive, rigorous and disciplined. This translated to a philosophy that excluded butter, red meat, caffeine, little alcohol and included fresh fruit, veggies, fish and so on. It also included a regimen of daily exercise, even if it meant rising at 5 a.m. to squeeze a workout into an active, fully-booked life. A day without exercise was unthinkable; deviation from my super healthy diet bordered on cataclysmic.

So, wouldn’t it make perfect sense that I would apply to cooking school in Paris? Not only cooking school, but the revered, classical, traditional French cooking school, Le Cordon Bleu. Goodness knows what I was thinking. Perhaps it was a subconscious acknowledgement of the starkness of my present routine and the need to just live a little; the gap of an ocean and the excuse of a new culture to step away from life as I knew it. Or perhaps it was the lack of meat protein in my diet that impacted my reasoning skills. Whatever the case, off I went to cook and eat in the land of butter, cream, pastry, runny cheese and terrines, at a school that for over 100 years held the distinguished and elite position of teaching classical French cuisine et pâtisserie.

And guess what? Nothing untoward happened. In fact, lots of delicious, sensual, pleasurable, yummy, gooey, and rich experiences befell me. The foods I wistfully admired from the sidelines of my healthy regimen back in the U.S. became the daily staples of my new Parisian life. I had an encyclopedia of cheeses at my disposal, bakeries on every street corner displayed gorgeous oven-baked breads and flaky croissants, cafés dotted every neighborhood serving comforting French bistro fare. Open air markets peppered the city, and depending on the day I could alter my route to school to pass by stands displaying a rainbow of fresh seasonal produce, glistening fresh meats and a sea of fish. Cheeses, pâtés, and more breads were prominently displayed along with a kaleidescope of cut flowers readily available for the finishing touch to the table.

For exercise I walked to school every day – literally across town – from the 18th to the 15th arrondissement. I risked life and limb crossing streets and boulevards, skirting the occasional mob of striking postal workers, protesting students and subsequent swarms of police, allowing 20 minutes at the minimum to navigate across the sweeping Place de la Concorde as I would officially cross from the right to the left bank over the Seine. Each day I would change my walking route, either purposely or more often erroneously, discovering new streets, neighborhoods, shops and cafés. I had a short list of favorite cafés where I would stop for my morning tartine (avec beurre) and café au lait (avec caféine.) Outside of the school I learned which bakeries had the best sandwiches – simple, satisfying packages with thickly sliced Comté cheese or paper-thin tongues of jambon sechée, a little butter and mustard, and perhaps a cornichon for garnish on a crusty, airy baguette the length of a forearm. So satisfying and so uncomplicated. An afternoon pick-me-up between classes or along my walk home would include an espresso and perhaps a tarte au citron – a dollop of perfectly balanced sweet, tart and very lemony curd nestled in a palm-sized shell of pâte sucrée. If I could bear to make dinner after a day of cooking in class, I would improvise a light dish with some of the purchases from the market or head out to a bistro or restaurant on my un-ending list of new places to try. Simply put, my life in Paris revolved around eating, cooking, walking and eating more.  I was very happy.  Bon Appétit.

Tarte au Citron

Lemon Tart – Tarte au Citron

Makes one 9″ tart

For the pastry – Pâte Sucrée
1 1/4 cup flour
2 tablespoons sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
7 tablespoons chilled unsalted butter, cut in 1/2″ pieces
1 egg yolk
1 tablespoon ice water

Combine flour, sugar and salt in bowl of food processor.  Add butter, using on/off turns until the mixture becomes crumbly.
Stir together egg yolk and water in small bowl.  Add to flour mixture.  Pulse until dough begins to clump together.
Press dough into bottom and up sides of 9-inch tart pan with removable bottom.  Trim edges.  Pierce crust all over with fork.  Freeze 20 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350 F.  Line crust with foil.  Fill with dried beans or pie weights.  Bake until crust is set, about 15 minutes.  Remove foil and beans or weights.  Continue baking until crust is lightly golden, about 20 minutes.  Transfer to rack to cool while preparing the filling.

For the Lemon Filling:

6 egg yolks
2/3 cup sugar
3/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (2-3 lemons)
6 tablespoons butter, softened
pinch of salt
2 teaspoons lemon zest

Combine egg yolks and sugar in a medium sauce pan.  Mix well to combine.  Add remaining ingredients, except for the lemon zest.  Cook over medium-low heat, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon.  (Do not allow to boil or the mixture will curdle.)
When the mixture changes to a bright yellow color and thickly coats the wooden spoon, remove from heat.  Pour through a fine strainer.  Discard the residue.  Stir in lemon zest.
Pour the filling into the cooled tart shell; it will continue to thicken as it sets.  Let it sit at least one hour.  Serve at room temperature or cold.

Bon Appétit

Bon Appétit

For the past 18 years I have lived in 5 countries. In 1990 I moved to Paris to study cooking with the intention of lingering on after my cooking program finished and finding a job. Originally I planned to work as an interior designer. After all, that was my profession in Boston before I moved, and while I loved cooking, I approached it more as a hobby and a ticket to Europe. I figured that once I got myself to Paris, learned the ropes of La Cuisine Française, magically learned French (I studied Spanish in school), endeared myself to the all-embracing French population and became a local, well, then, I might just get a design job with Euro-Disney, which was in the process of being constructed on the outskirts of Paris. I would nimbly straddle the French-American culture, drinking café au lait and eating baguettes (I was on a tight budget, after all) while involving myself in the construction and decor of the Magic Kingdom and home of Mickey Mouse. Sounded like a plan.

As all best laid plans go, before I even boarded the Jumbo to take me to Paris, I met a Dane who was in town on business from Geneva, Switzerland. What does this have to do with anything, you may ask. Well, everything. We hit it off, we liked each other. I thought he was cute, and apparently he felt the same about me. So, when I did fly over to Paris to cook, that was not the only thing that began cooking. Geneva and Paris are a 3 hour TGV train ride apart, and for the next 6 months we spent nearly every weekend together either in Paris or Geneva. So, upon my graduation from La Cuisine Base de Française in Paris, I decided that Euro-Disney would have to be built without me, packed my bags and took another TGV ride to Geneva – this time with the plan to stay.

And stay I did. For 9 years, to be exact. The Dane became my husband; we were married and had 2 children. Initially I found a job as a design consultant on a large new construction project which landed me the desired and very necessary permis de séjour, or residence permit, which meant I was a legal, albeit FOREIGN, mind you, resident of Switzerland. All the while, I continued cooking and pursuing my love for food. I dabbled in catering, I cooked for family, I cooked for friends. In fact, I found my above mentioned design job by cooking for the director of the organization I was hired to design. He was a guest for dinner one evening, lamenting his situation with this enormous, unwieldy, emotionally-charged, and predictably political, new construction project. I clucked sympathetically as I sautéed lardons. I rolled my eyes as he recounted the daily shenanigans he had to sit through, as I passed the gratin de pommes de terre. I nodded sagely as he complained how this was distracting the purpose and work at hand of his institution, and I ladled another serving of beef bourguignon. When he took a breath and politely inquired about my cooking experience in Paris and general interest in cuisine, I unabashedly segued directly (remember, I am American at the end of the day) to my design experience, credentials and previous construction projects, confusing the gentleman so much he actually offered me a position on the spot as a design consultant. Bon appétit.

Beef and apple cake 008 Beef Bourguignon
Serves 6-8

Olive oil
3 lbs. beef chuck, cut in 1 1/2″ chunks
Flour for dredging
Salt and pepper
1/2 cup cognac

3-4 large carrots, sliced 1/2″ thick rounds
1 large yellow onion, cut in large chunks
4 large garlic cloves, smashed
1 bottle red wine
1 cup beef stock
1 small can tomato paste
2 teaspoons dried thyme

1/4 pound white mushrooms, halved
1 small net pearl onions, peeled

1 tablespoon brown sugar

Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil over medium heat in a large oven-proof pan.
Dredge beef chuck in flour, shaking off excess. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Working in batches, add beef to pot in one layer and brown on all sides. Transfer to a bowl. Add cognac to pan and deglaze pan over medium-high heat, scraping up bits. Allow to reduce by half. Pour cognac over beef and set aside.

Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in same pan. Add carrot, onion and garlic. Sauté 3 minutes over medium heat. Add beef mixture, wine, stock, tomato paste, and thyme. Beef should be covered by the wine and stock. If not, add more stock to cover. Bring to boil, reduce heat to low, cover and simmer. Continue to simmer on stove top until beef is tender, about 2-3 hours. (Alternatively, beef can be placed in an oven at 325 F.)

While beef is cooking, sauté mushrooms and onions in a skillet with olive oil until they turn light golden brown. Remove from heat and set aside.

When beef is tender, remove from heat. Strain liquid from stew into a saucepan. Boil liquid until sauce is reduced by 1/2 and has a sauce consistency. Add sugar. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Pour sauce back over beef. Add mushrooms and onions. Simmer 15 minutes. Serve.

Beef bourguignon can be prepared one day in advance. Reheat over medium-low heat, or in a 325 F. oven to serve.

Salad of Mixed Greens with Lardons and Mustard Vinaigrette
Serves 6-8

1/2 lb. (250 g.) lardons (bacon cubes)

Salad Lardons tf

One medium frisée
One half head escarole

Mustard Vinaigrette (yields 1 cup):
1 garlic clove, minced
1 teaspoon Dijon-style mustard
1/2 teaspoon salt, to taste
1/2 teaspoon ground pepper, to taste
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

Cook lardons in a sauté pan over medium heat until fat is rendered and they begin to turn golden brown. Remove from heat and drain on paper towel.

While lardons are cooking, combine garlic, mustard, salt, pepper and red wine vinegar in small bowl. Slowly add olive oil in a steady stream, constantly whisking until dressing is emulsified.
Pour desired amount of dressing over greens in a large salad bowl and stir to combine (best with hands). Arrange on plates and sprinkle lardons over greens.

Potato Gratin – Gratin de Pommes de Terre
Serves 8-10
Pears and Potato Gratin 030
2 cups creme fraiche or sour cream
2 teaspoons minced garlic
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
3 lbs. Yukon Gold potatoes, thinly sliced
3/4 lb. Gruyère cheese, grated

Preheat oven to 375 F.
In a bowl, combine creme fraiche, garlic, salt, pepper and nutmeg. Mix together.
Butter a rectangular oven baking pan.
Arrange half of the potato slices, overlapping in pan.
Spread half of the creme fraiche mixture evenly over the potatoes. Sprinkle half of the Gruyère over. Top with remaining potatoes, overlapping. Spread remaining creme fraiche mixture over potatoes. Sprinkle Gruyère over.
Bake, uncovered, in oven 1 hour and 15 minutes, or until top is golden brown all over and potatoes are tender.