After the usual holiday diet of chocolate, too much coffee and a lot of salami and cheese, it’s always a good idea to have something solid in mind for dinner. I can hardly imagine a more perfect dish for Christmas day than long-braised leg of lamb. Get it going after breakfast, peek at it occasionally throughout the day, pull it out in time for dinner. The only downside is that it takes up oven space that you might want for, say, baking pie, but the braise can easily be moved to the stovetop (which is what we ended up doing).
The lamb braises in a wine-tomato-stock mixture, but then you get to fill in the space around it with whatever veg you like. The original recipe recommends turnips, onions and carrots; we left out the onions and threw in parsnip and fennel. The long, slow braising makes the vegetables incredibly tender while still retaining their shape, so they can be scooped out of the broth and served alongside the meat.
When the lamb is done, you can hardly get it out of the pan in one piece. The meat simply falls off the bone.
We ate the tender lamb and vegetables with buttered pasta, pouring the pan sauce over everything indiscriminately. A five-year-old Cabernet from Willis Hall went deliciously.
And sweet potato pie with bourbon to finish, of course.
Six-Hour Leg of Lamb
Adapted from Molly Stevens’ 7-Hour Lamb from All About Braising. Feeds four very nicely, with some leftovers.
- 1 lamb leg roast, bone-in (ours was about 4 lbs)
- salt and pepper
- 1 cup white wine
- 2 cups chicken stock
- 2 bay leaves
- leaves from several thyme sprigs
- 15 garlic cloves, smashed
- 1 cup canned tomatoes and juice
- 1 carrot
- half of an enormous turnip
- 1 parsnip
- 2 bulbs fennel
Peel the vegetables and chop into large chunks (they’ll dissolve if you make them too small). Season the lamb roast with salt and pepper.
Preheat the oven to 275°.
In a very large Dutch oven, heat a bit of olive oil until very hot. Sear the lamb on all sides until golden brown. Remove the meat to a platter.
Add wine to the pan and reduce, scraping up all the good lamb bits, until it’s about half its volume. Add stock, herbs, garlic, and tomatoes and simmer for a few minutes.
Put the lamb back into the liquid and scatter the veg around. Cover tightly and put the pot into the oven. After two hours, turn the meat and see how hard the liquid is boiling. If it seems to be bubbling too much, turn the heat down, or shift the pan to the stovetop and keep it at a very low simmer. Continue to turn and check the meat every two hours until it is falling apart when you touch it. This took six hours for us, but might be longer. The original recipe was for seven hour lamb, so it may depend on your oven.
Remove the lamb and vegetables to a platter, then reduce the liquid in the pan if desired (taste for salt and adjust if necessary) and serve, passing the sauce at the table.
We turned the leftovers into soup for lunch the next day, which worked beautifully, but sandwiches would also be great fun.