Wine With Slow Roasted Lamb
by Paul Lukacs and Marguerite Thomas
Earlier this Fall we were in Bordeaux, where (no big surprise) we ate and drank extremely well. One of the most enjoyable meals we had was at the Relais de Franc-Mayne, an exceptionally attractive B&B located just minutes from downtown St. Emilion (www.relaisfrancmayne.com). There is something particularly alluring about spending a comfortable night in a working winery--an experience that is made all the more pleasurable when the winery is a prestigious chateau such as Franc-Mayne.
When we learned that it was possible to have dinner at Franc-Mayne (arrangements must be made in advance) we didn't hesitate to sign up. The meal's pièce de resistance that night was Epaule d'Agneau Confit, a slow roasted shoulder of lamb. Since Franc-Mayne's cook, Nicole Lefèvre, graciously wrote down her recipe for us, we decided to try it once back stateside.
Madame Lefèvre's instructions call for bone-in lamb shoulder, but since our butcher couldn't provide one on short notice we used a leg of lamb instead. Because there is less fat in the leg than in the shoulder, our version of the dish lacked some of the meltingly rich, supple flavors and textures of the original, but it was nonetheless extremely tasty. Slow roasting for several hours yields a very tender piece of meat. Because it cooks at a low temperature plenty of savory juices collect in the pan. The parsley and garlic mixture that is showered over the roast adds another gratifying layer of flavor.
Lamb is a notorious partner for Bordeaux style red wines, and this roast was no exception. For that matter, we found any number of different types of red wine to be a congenial partner for it. When cooked this way (as opposed to, say, a rare leg of lamb), the meat's concentrated richness of flavor and texture absorb fairly overt tannins well, and the sumptuousness of the roast can also rise to the challenge of big, mouth-filling, fruity wines. Only the most densely extracted wines, and those that were lean to the point of anorexia, failed to measure up to this dish. Here's the recipe:
Slow-Roasted Leg of Lamb
One 4-5 pound bone-in leg of lamb
4 cloves garlic, minced (mixed use)
2 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and pepper
¼ cup minced parsley
Pre-heat the oven to 250°. Cut shallow slits in the lamb and force half the minced garlic in them. Rub the surface of the meat with the olive oil, and sprinkle generously with salt and pepper. Combine the remaining garlic and parsley and set aside. Place lamb in a roasting pan, cover lightly with foil, and put in oven for 3 hours. Remove foil (do not discard it) and return pan to oven. Cook for another 2 ½- 3 hours, or until a knife can easily be inserted in the meat (turn the roast occasionally while it cooks). If the lamb skin is not thoroughly browned, turn the oven up to 400° for about 10-15 minutes. Remove lamb from oven and sprinkle with the parsley-garlic mixture. Tent the roast with the foil and let it rest for a few minutes before carving.