French Christmas Dinner


Ever since my sister and I have begun exploring cooking, we’ve made it a point to cook for our family as often as possible, more like scientists and lab rats more than anything else >:]

So this year, my dad wanted a French style lamb roast, so me and my sister decided to make it a full 3 course French dinner.

We started early in the morning as we had only one oven and every dish required roasting something at some point. The flavors we decided to center on were rosemary, as we have a rosemary plant outside (nothing beats fresh picked herbs!) so Adrienne baked a rosemary baguette.


It turned out to be rustic country-side style dense bread, with a thick crunchy crust and moist thick fluffiness within. The key to achieving the crunchy rock hard crust is steaming the oven while it’s baking. We put a pan full of water underneath the baguettes and sprayed the baguette with water at the beginning, during and near the end of baking. If you want less dense bread, make sure to let it rise appropriately and roll your baguette out only a few inches in thickness because the bread expands a lot during the rising process, and the lighter you want it, the large you have to let it get.

The butternut squash soup was simple in ingredients as well as process. The key to getting flavor for the soup is to roast the veggies in the oven right up until they begin to develop a nice caramelization (make sure not to let the onion burn unless you like having dark burned bits in your soup). It brings out the natural sugars so that they can incorporate with the chicken stock while cooking it over the stove.


I took a few liberties with the lamb roast recipe as I didn’t get a full 6 lb. bone in piece (3 lb. semi boneless instead). The original Anthony Bourdain recipe calls for inserting the garlic and seasoning it with olive oil, salt and pepper right before cooking, but I decided to do it the evening before and leave it to marinate overnight. It definitely saved on time and there was only a hint of the lamb meat flavor when we ate it. I also bagged dried parsley and thyme in a tied up coffee filter. When putting the roast in the oven, you have to make sure that the top is completely sealed with the pot with the flour/water grout mixture. This is the most important part in ensuring you get moist spoon-able meat “a la cuillere”.

Several knife nicks and constant oven checks later, dinner was served.





The soup turned out to be the most well done out of everything. The truffle oil drizzle at the end is a must, as it combines with the lighter butternut squash to produce a wonderfully rich and complex flavor. The dense crusty baguette was a perfect accompaniment for scooping up the last bits of soup.

I’d left the lamb in for a bit too long, so the outside of the lamb was dry, but the parts nearest the bone were melt-in-your-mouth tender. If you decide to cook with half, 4 hours would be the maximum to put it in the oven for, but make sure to use the same amounts of seasoning and ingredients as with the full 7 hour version. The vegetables and the sweet potato turned out perfect as well, the vegetables having completely soaked up all the flavors in the pot, to the point of almost super saturation.

The dessert was eaten up too quickly before I had a chance to snap a picture of it on the dining table, but it was oddly but surprisingly well paired with a scoop of Japanese red bean ice cream instead of the originally intended crème anglaise.

The dinner was paired with a wonderfully light yet robust bottle of 2006 Domaine Carneros Tattinger sparkling wine.

Butternut Squash Soup

Ingredients:

1 medium butternut squash        1 large yellow onion        4 cups high quality chicken stock

2 cups of water            ½ cup of cream        pinch of cayenne

Pepper                    salt                olive oil

Black truffle oil

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Peel and chop the squash into 3 inch chunks. Quarter the onion vertically and leave the quarters hanging off of the root. In a roasting pan add and toss the vegetables with olive oil, salt and black pepper. Roast for about 30 minutes, or right before vegetables caramelize.
  2. In a large soup pot add the roasted veggies. Deglaze the roasting pan with 2 cups of water and pour the liquid into the pot with the veggies. Add the chicken stock, a generous sprinkling of salt and a pinch of black pepper and cayenne and cook at medium-low flame for 1 hour.
  3. Turn off the heat and let cool. Blend the mixture in batches until smooth and add it back into the pot. If it is too thick add more chicken stock. Stir in the cream and serve after it has been mixed, drizzled with black truffle oil.

adapted from Angela’s Food Love

Gigot a la cuillere (aka Gigot de Sept Heures)

Ingredients :

1 leg of lamb        4 cloves of garlic sliced        20 whole garlic cloves

¼ cup olive oil        1 large yellow onion thinly sliced    4 carrots peeled and halved

1 bouquet garni    1 cup dry white wine            1 cup flour/1/4 cup water for grout

Directions:

  1. Make slits all over the leg of lamb and insert all of the slices of garlic. Season the lamb with salt, pepper and olive oil. Plastic wrap it and put it in the refrigerator overnight.
  2. On the day of cooking, put the onions, carrots, wine, whole garlic cloves and bouquet garni in a dutch oven. Put the leg of lamb on top of the veggies.
  3. Preheat the oven to 300 degrees C. Mix the flour and water. The original ratio as described is wrong and yields a watery mixture that doesn’t stick, so add enough flour until you get an clay like paste that won’t slide down the sides of the pot. Don’t add too much otherwise it will just crack off the pot while in the oven. Put the lid on the dutch oven and use the paste to seal it to the pot, making sure that there are no leaks.
  4. Put the pot on a pan (to catch the paste that flakes off) and stick it in the oven.
  5. Leave it alone for the next few hours (depending on the size of your roast). DO NOT open, check or crack the seal on the pot at any time. Otherwise you’ll let all the moisture escape and get dry nasty lamb.
  6. Carefully crack open the pot and serve. Make sure to keep your face away as there is a LOT of steam that comes out.

Adapted from Anthony Bourdain’s Les Halles Cookbook/food.com


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