I have been feeling rather nostalgic lately. So when it came to picking this month’s recipe from Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking, I picked one that reminded me of my childhood. Gigot Pré-Salé, Roti (Roast leg of lamb) is a dish that reminds me of many celebratory dinners, friends and family enjoying each other’s company and a comforting sense of homeliness. Having cooked this dish 100’s of times before I was a tad curious as to how Julia’s recipe would differ from mine and also slightly nervous about Julia’s take on my interpretation of it.
You see roast leg of lamb is one of my all time favorite dishes and if I had to choose one last meal this would be it. Over the years I have perfected my recipe and it is now, I’m proud to say, completely fool proof. Stuffed with garlic and rosemary and served with golden and crispy oven baked potatoes, rich dark gravy and any vegetable as long as it’s green I have achieved many culinary standing ovations. So when I approached Julia’s recipe, I did so comfortably smug not believing that Julia could add anything that could better my already perfected dish. Boy was I wrong!
The devil is in the details, and details Julia provides plenty off. My recipe is quite simple. You take a roast leg of lamb (with the bone in), make small incisions all around and then insert peeled garlic cloves and rosemary, salt and pepper to taste and then place in a casserole dish. Add one unpeeled and halved onion, two carrots, a couple of unpeeled garlic cloves, rosemary, 250ml red wine, 250ml lamb stock, two bay leaves, 4 cloves, a dollop of salted butter, cover with foil, place lid on in stick in the oven at 90’C for 8-10 hours. The lamb is done when you can pull the bone clean out. But when it comes to Julia’s recipe a few extra steps are required.
Firstly, Julia’s recipe requires the lamb to be seared and this is not done in a frying pan, no… it’s done in the oven and it takes a good 20 minutes. Secondly, the lamb must be trussed before searing, something I completely forgot to do and only realized after the meat was already seared. All I could do at that point was to take a sip of red wine, shrug my shoulders and say “It’s not the end of the world now is it Julia?” The remainder of the recipe and the ingredients was pretty much similar to mine apart from the total cooking time and recommended oven setting. This was the one area I was not willing to compromise and I stuck to mine.
At 10pm I placed my roast leg of lamb in the oven to slowly cook and I set my alarm for 8am and went to bed. There’s nothing that says home and peace to me quite like the smell roast leg of lamb early in the morning. As I lay in bed breathing in the aroma of heaven I was whisked away by happy memories of Sunday lunches, Christmas dinners and my mother and grandmother when they were still alive and cooked this dish for me. It’s amazing how a single smell can take you back 5, 10, 20 years.
At 7am curiosity got the better of me and I rushed to the kitchen and took a peak at my lamb. It was cooked perfectly. Being way too early for lunch I decided to let the meat rest and I did too. Nearer to lunch time I commenced with the preparation of the butter parsley potatoes, string beans with bacon and onion and the spectacular gravy made from the liquids in the casserole dish in which the lamb had been bathing overnight.
With the lamb carved, potatoes, string beans and gravy prepared it was time to dish up. It was time to find out if Julia indeed bettered my signature dish. Laborie Cabernet Sauvignon 2008 was selected to be served with the lamb and with both our glasses filled we got stuck in. With my first mouthful I thought I had died and gone to heaven, the lamb melted in my mouth and the subtleties of flavor had my taste buds exploding with pleasure. I know this will be the second time I have said this about a Julia Child’s dish but it was an orgasm on a plate – it really was!
Julia Child’s Gigot Pré-Salé, Roti combined with my now updated recipe for Roast Leg of Lamb was a scrumptious multiple orgasmic experience that will see me in the gym at least 3 times this week. I can’t believe I doubted Julia to bring that extra magic to my signature dish. I will never doubt Julia Child ever again!
Till next time.
Julia Child and Lobster!