Slow Food Sunday 1: Red Wine Braised Leg of Lamb

Something about making a dish that takes all day just fucking soothes me. When the week has been long, when everyone in town suddenly starts driving like a damn maniac, when that bitch at work sends you YET ANOTHER passive aggressive email from three feet away and you just stare out your office window deeply contemplating throwing her out of it, a slow cooked meal can cure you.

The weekend brought some old friends together over dark beer and St Patty’s Day and, while it was much needed and absolutely wonderful, it didn’t quite bring me back down to Earth. Usually on the way home from such an event, I would very kindly, firmly beg my uber driver to take me through McDonalds. Yes, I am a foodie that loves some good ol’ Mickey D’s. I feel no shame.

This bar happened to have a Publix next door so guess what my new favorite place is?

They say not to go to the grocery store when you’re hungry, but you should reeeeeally not go when you’re drunk and hungry. My cart made no fucking sense. I bought a whole leg of lamb, beets, chicken wings, wine and a shitload of Gatorade. It all seemed really cohesive at the time.

Sundays are a day to laze around. To cuddle under a blanket, to watch some shitty TV, pet your dog and not put a bra on all day. To be completely honest, I haven’t put a bra on in months but Sunday is the day no one can tell me SHIT about it.

While you are lazing, why not throw a big hunk of meat in the oven and make your house smell like heaven? Braise it low and slow and attend to it just often enough to stave off the bedsores.

When I woke up, miraculously not hungover, and looked at that lamb leg, a beautiful idea was born. I’m starting a new thing. It’s called Slow Food Sunday. I’m sure someone has already made this up but forget them I’m not Googling this shit it’s mine now.

I’ve sung the praises of lamb before and this time is no different. Shit is good. My favorite part about it, however, is its versatility. With the leftovers, I plan on making pitas starring some bitchin’ harissa aioli I made the other day (stay tuned for that post). The leftovers reheat great or they could be sandwiches, tacos, or a noodle salad with some bright fresh herbs. The possibilities are endless and with one day of hands-off cooking you’re set for three meals.

Ingredients:

  • 1 3.5-4 lb leg of lamb (sirloin portion)
  • 2-3 tablespoons fresh rosemary
  • 1 heaping tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 5 cloves garlic
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 4 large carrots
  • 2 medium onions
  • 3-4 ribs celery
  • 1 bottle red wine (I used pinot, cabernet would be great too)
  • 2 cups chicken broth

   For the gremolata:

  • 1 cup mint leaves
  • Zest of 1/2 orange
  • Zest of 1 lemon
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • Pinch sugar

The Breakdown:

  1. Preheat your oven to 450 °F.
  2. Finely chop the rosemary and garlic. At the very end, I sprinkle in a small pinch of salt and use the side of my knife to really break it down.
  3. Mix the garlic and rosemary with the Dijon mustard and olive oil to form a paste.
  4. With a small knife, poke the lamb all over, about half an inch deep. If you need to, trim some of the excess fat. Mine was well trimmed already, so I left it alone.
  5. Rub the lamb with the rosemary paste, making sure to push it into all of the little holes you created.
  6. Season the outside liberally with salt and pepper and place in a large roasting pan or dutch oven.
  7. Place in the oven for 20 minutes, flipping once halfway through to brown it evenly.
  8. Remove from the oven, and lower the heat to 325 °F.
  9. Pour the wine and chicken broth into the hot pan, scraping the bottom to pick up all of the fond.
  10. Add the carrots, celery, and onions before covering the pan tightly with foil and returning it to the oven.
  11. Cook for 4-5 hours, flipping once at the two-hour mark. Once the bone can be wiggled and the meat pulls away from it easily it’s done.
  12. Transfer the meat to a platter to cool and pour the pan drippings into a measuring cup or glass bowl. After about 5-10 minutes, the fat will rise to the top and can be easily removed.
  13. Once you have removed the excess fat, set the pan drippings over medium-high heat and allow it to reduce 15-20 minutes. Once it has reduced, season to taste with salt and black pepper.
  14. While it reduces, roughly chop the mint and mix it in a small bowl with the rest of the gremolata ingredients. Set aside.
  15. Shred the meat with two forks and serve over mashed potatoes, polenta, or whatever else floats your boat. Top with gremolata.

I did my laundry, I laid around, and I felt my tension start to slowly release. With each flip and check I got more excited about the dinner to come. Something about it taking all day just makes it special, even if you are just going to eat it on a TV tray while watching a crappy movie. It’s restful and luxurious, the way Sundays should be. We all have to go to work tomorrow, might as well go out with a bang.

Don’t skip the gremolata, I think that really added a brightness that makes a heavy meal like this work. Instead of fighting with the rich lamb flavors, the mint and lemon highlights them on a level they can’t reach alone.

As for the leftovers, I’ll keep you updated.

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