16 January, 2009

Braising with honey: Souris d'agneau confit au miel.

I don't know my meat cuts in English very well, but a souris d'agneau is the last narrow bit on the leg of lamb. (No mice are involved in the preparation of this dish, despite the name). Braised for two and a half hours in a blend of oil, honey, and herbs, then paired with a puree of celery root and potato, this becomes winter comfort food par excellence. It has the added advantage of being extremely easy on the nerves as it is incredibly easy to make, using a minimum of ingredients. When you've finished, you'll find the meat falls away from the bone.

The recipe is enough for four to six people. If fewer people are at the table, make four souris anyway, as you can use the leftovers to make lamb rillettes--a coarse-textured, easy to make pate. Or you can make delicious sandwiches. Simply flake the meat, removing any fat, salt and pepper generously and refrigerate. The next day, enjoy on a split baguette with mayonnaise or mustard and some arugula or mache.

  • 4 souris d'agneau

  • 8 tablespoons olive oil (or duck fat, if you have some)

  • 6 tablespoons honey (the fuller-flavored, the better)

  • 4 tablespoons fresh herbs (thyme, rosemary...)

  • 1 head of garlic, optional

    Preheat your oven to 180 degrees celcius, or 350 degrees fahrenheit.

    If (and only if!) you have the time, cover the souris with rock salt and refrigerate overnight. Wipe off the salt before cooking.

    Pour the oil and honey in your cocotte*. Heat on a low fire, just until they combine nicely. Toss in the herbs (crushing them a bit beforehand with a mortar and pestle helps release their flavors). If you are using dried herbs, use half as much. Put in the souris, coating them with the oil and honey. Break apart the head of garlic, throw in the cloves with their skin still on. And that's it.

    Put the lid on, pop the cocotte in the oven. After an hour and a half (or so), make sure that the lamb doesn't seem to be drying out; if there is barely any sauce left, stir in some water. Pour the sauce on the lamb. Your souris will be nicely browned and ready after two, to two and a half hours in the oven. Please note that longer does not always mean better; in this case, overcooked will still be tender but also dry, so calculate when it will need to be on the table and work backward to figure out the best time to start cooking.

    Enjoy--and let me know what you think!

    *This is an oven-proof cast-iron, sometimes enameled, braising dish with heavy lid. While it can be a splurge purchase, it will pay you dividends in terms of being able to prepare a whole new range of meats, vegetables and desserts requiring minimal work.

    Leftovers (above), baking in a yolk-glazed tourtiere, or meat pie (below).

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