Sunday, April 1, 2012

Recipe of the Month: Epaule d'agneau boulangère

In the old days of France, not everyone had the kind of oven they could roast meats in. Of course, it wasn’t a problem because most of the population didn’t have the kind of money that allowed them to buy meats suitable for roasting. Such cuts were reserved for feast days, such as Christmas and Easter... if at all.
     So how did they roast their meat on those rare occasions? What was their solution? People would take their roasts to the village boulanger - the baker - who had a perfect oven for this. The baker also would lend his oven for Sunday dinner, cooking all the village’s casseroles between two ovenloads of bread.
     When I got my first real apartment in Paris and Thanksgiving rolled around, I had a double quandary: where to find a turkey in what was off-season in France... and then how to roast it if I found one, given my lack of an oven. As by then I’d made friends with the baker, and was aware of this old custom, I decided to ask him to help me out. And he did. Year after year.
     This month’s recipe - in its most traditional version - got its name from this custom of taking roasts to the boulangerie. It’s one of those all-in-one dishes the baker was happy to cook for his customers. But instead of turkey for Thanksgiving, it’s lamb for Easter, or Passover... or just for a fancy dinner. Aside from the lamb, the rest of the ingredients are inexpensive, especially if you have an herb garden with your own rosemary.

Rosemary (romarin, in French)
  • 2½ -3 lb shoulder of lamb, bone removed
  • olive oil
  • 2/3 c of white wine
  • 5 large firm potatoes (Yukon gold are good)
  • 1 medium onion
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • few sprigs of rosemary
  • salt and ground black pepper

- The night before the meal, slice the cloves of garlic into smallish pieces and insert them into little incisions made in the lamb. Then massage it with olive oil (shades of Julia Child) and finally sprinkle with salt, freshly ground pepper and the rosemary. Wrap tightly in plastic wrap and put in the refrigerator overnight.
- When you’re ready to roast the lamb, preheat the oven to 450° F (230°C).
- Peel the potatoes and slice them crosswise, somewhat thin. (If you do this in advance, cover the potatoes with water until you’re ready to cook them.) Also slice the onions somewhat thin.

- Spread some olive oil in the bottom of a roasting pan and then spread the potatoes evenly. Spread the onions on top of the potatoes. Pour the wine over the potatoes and onions. Salt and pepper both. Unwrap the lamb, lay it flat on the top and put it in the oven on the middle rack.
- After 15 minutes, lower the oven to 350°F (175°C). Continue to roast for 10-12 minutes per pound for medium-rare (the preferred French way) or 13-15 minutes per pound for well-done (which to me makes the meat dry and much less interesting). If the lamb is getting too dark at any point, cover with aluminum foil for the rest of the oven time.
- Remove the lamb for cutting and let it sit while you put the vegetables in a serving dish. Use a slosh more white wine to scrape up all the browned bits and drippings for gravy, thickening with a bit of cornstarch, if necessary.
Serves 4-6, depending on appetite.
Accompany with a simple salad with vinaigrette dressing (made with walnut oil, if possible) and garnished with walnuts halves and crumbled roquefort.

A cabernet sauvignon is perfect for this delicate meat.


  1. Sandy, cherie,I probably gained five pounds just reading this,but it was delicious and well worth it!