I love watching the Barefoot Contessa almost as much as I love to cook. I admire Ina Garten’s approach to cooking, her sage entertaining advice and joie de vivre. And, I’ve never made one of her recipes that wasn’t perfect the first time!
Many months ago I was enraptured watching an episode of hers that featured leg of lamb that is braised for four hours, yielding meat so tender you can serve it with a spoon. It was so simple and so impressive, and would pair so beautifully with Pahlmeyer Merlot, that I immediately stored the recipe away for a special occasion.
My mother and mother-in-law were recently in town and to welcome them I decided to prepare this special recipe. http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/ina-garten/4-hour-lamb-recipe/index.html
I purchased a leg of local lamb at my Napa Whole Foods. New Zealand lamb is generally much smaller than the seven-pound leg this recipe calls for, so ask your butcher about local lamb. As Ina suggested, I had the butcher cut the shank off the leg so it would fit in my dutch oven.
For me this recipe is a winner in every way. Not only are there just a few simple steps and a handful of ingredients, it is made in one pot and once in the oven, you can forget about it. To quote Ina, “How easy is that?!”
I made just one adjustment to the recipe: rather than discarding the garlic cloves that cooked in the braising liquid with the lamb, I mashed up their sweet flesh and added it back into the sauce.
I served the lamb with Ina’s Provencal French Beans - http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/ina-garten/provencal-french-beans-recipe/index.html - and a kale dish my mother and I collaborated on. It was a combination of red kale roasted until tender and crispy, and dinosaur kale sauteed with olive oil, garlic and balsamic vinegar.
The lamb was perfect. It fell apart on the platter and was incredibly flavorful, and the beans and kale were wonderful complements. But the best part? Our 2010 Pahlmeyer Merlot paired spectacularly with this earthy, comforting meal. The wine’s juicy, rich layers and solid but silky tannins offered just enough fruit, acidity and structure to balance but not overpower the tender braised meat.