Be patient with the animal…

 

Was I just talking about expectations last week? I should have also mentioned that (1) the concept of patience is a little problematic for me and (2) sometimes I simply refuse to learn my lesson!

If you read this blog before (or if you just happen to know me), you know that I spend inordinate hours cooking. I love it—most of the time. Those hours have nothing to do with me being patient. No, no, no.I am not patient. I want instant gratification, immediate response, instantaneous replies. That is what I naturally expect.

I imagined that age, a law degree, and a toddler, would allow me to develop this weak muscle- the patience muscle. I suppose you have to have one to be able to “develop” it. What gets me through many hours in the kitchen is not patience. It is unadulterated love for cooking and some serious perseverance, being goal oriented and excited about the final product. And when I do need patience in the kitchen I replace it with setting clear expectations.

As for not learning my lesson, I do this with people as much as I do it with cooking. I excuse, give second chances (and third and fourth ones), find explanations, blame myself, regroup, and try again. Most of the time, this works, except when I simply cannot let go of a relationship I feel is important to me or when I have to clean up fat, gristle, connective tissue, and silver skin from lamb meat! That little animal has stubborn stubborn fat and tissue!

Leg of Lamb- Bouchon-style!

Get yourself a leg of lamb a day before you plan to eat it. 5 and a half to 6 lbs deboned. Test your butcher’s knowledge by asking him to debone it into actual traditional leg cuts- if it is a short leg of lamb (most are) then you will ask for the top round, bottom round, and knuckle. For a long leg, you will also get a sirloin. My trusted and very knowledgeable butcher called me up to clarify what I meant when I called my order in. If you get a confused face and response from your butcher, don’t be shocked. Ok, you have the leg.

Now the part where you need the patience or at least where I can try to set some reasonable expectations for you- cleaning it up. You need to remove fat, silver skin, and connective tissue from the lamb leg. There is A LOT of this. Probably there was almost a pound out of six and a half for mine. The process is tedious, dull, and seemingly useless. It is irritating and makes you feel unproductive. I nearly lost it!

There is a point to this though, of course. The method of cooking is not hours upon hours in the oven like some leg of lamb recipes. It is rather a pan sear and a much quicker roast yielding a perfectly cooked tender and very flavorful piece of meat. So do it, be patient with the animal and know that you are not crazy feeling frustrated with the process.

Great! Now you should have your individual parts of the lamb cleaned and separated. If you broke them into smaller chunks to remove all of that stuff, that is fine! I did too and it turned out great.

Lightly score the top of each individual cut with the tip of a sharp knife. This will allow the marinade to permeate the meat. Season each side of the meat fresh ground pepper (not salt!!!) then with a tablespoon or so of the delicious marinade below.

Marinade

Well, the marinade is a little more complicated than a couple of things you have in the fridge combined. Or who knows, maybe you have some garlic confit laying around in the fridge. I did. For this marinade you need garlic confit- about 8 large cloves and ½ cup of the garlic confit oil. You will also need 2 tablespoons of fresh thyme leaves.

You put all of this in a blender or food processor and pulse for a few seconds- allow it to have some texture not to be a total puree.

Garlic Confit

Ingredients: 1 cup peeled garlic cloves and 2 cups canola oil.

Cutoff the root ends of the garlic cloves and discard. Place the cloves small pan and add enough oil to cover them by about one inch. The garlic should all be submerged in oil. Place the saucepan over low-medium heat (use a diffuser if you havegas stove and some extra attention if you have an electric stove).

The garlic should cook gently- small bubbles that do not break at the surface. Adjust the heat if needed and stir about every 5 minutes for a total of 40 minutes or until the garlic is completely tender when pierced with the tip of a knife. Allow to cool in the oil and store in an airtight container.

This holds in your refrigerator if covered in oil up to one month. It is a fantastic building block for salad dressings, mashed potatoes, marinades, or as a nice simple spread on a baguette.

Back to the lamb…you rubbed it with fresh pepper and the marinade. Cover, refrigerate, wait at least 6 hours or up to a day.

Additional Ingredients: canola oil, 1 tablespoon butter, 8 sprigs of thyme, 12 garlic cloves peeled,

plus 1 cup lamb jus! And some kitchen twine.

When you are ready to cook it, preheat the over to 325ºF.

With kitchen twine, tie each piece of meat into a compact roll- start at the center or widest area of the meat an continue to tie pieces at 1 inch intervals around each roast. I had no actual clue how to do this and have never done it before. It was almost an exercise in weaving. I liked it.

You want to keep the meat tied securely to ensure a uniform roast but don’t tie it too firmly – it will cut into the meat.

Season each roast generally with kosher salt and fresh ground pepper.

In an ovenproof skillet, pour a bit of canola oil and heat until hot. You don’t want to crowd the meat so you might need to cook this in batches. Add the lamb to the skillet and sauté gently rolling around the meat in the pan to brown it evenly on all sides- 3 to 4 minutes.

If you are doing several batches, cook each piece of meat. When you are done, add the butter, thyme, garlic and return all the meat to the pan. Saute for another couple of minutes basting the meat with the oil and melted butter.

Transfer the skillet with the meat to the oven. Each piece of meat will cook in a different amount of time. Carefully check with an instant read thermometer!

[side note- I got one of these yesterday. I am so in love!]

The sirloin, if you have it, will cook the quickest and could be ready after 7 minutes. Start checking on it. The bottom and knuckle will take 20-25 minutes and the top round about 30 minutes. All in all, the purpose is internal temperature that is about 125ºF to 130ºF for medium rare.

Remove it from the oven. Shhhh! Allow the lamb to rest for 15 minutes in a warm place. Remove and discard the twine. Slice it and arrange the desired portion on plates giving a sampling of the different cuts.

Ladle some of the jus over the lamb and onto the plate and garnish with a sprinkle of fleur de sel or just kosher salt and a sprig of the cooked thyme.

I made this tonight for Passover. It was a hit. Such a hit that I failed to take pictures of the final product.

Happy Spring!

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