Add this meal to the general theme I’ve had going on here for a while: easy enough for a weeknight, but special enough for guests. See also: easy (or even essential) to make ahead of time. The nature of my job (teaching piano lessons in the afternoon and early evening) and family life (young kids who eat relatively early) is such that I don’t have the immediate time before dinner to throw something together. But, I do have some time in the early afternoon, when my oldest son is either at preschool or having some down time, and my toddler is having a nap, where I can devote a little time to putting dinner together. That’s a luxury I don’t take for granted. Enter: the 4-hour leg of lamb (from Foolproof). We used a boneless leg of lamb (from Costco), and I wouldn’t say that the flavor or the texture suffered any. I wanted to make the accompanying recipe for flageolets (French white beans), but I didn’t think far enough ahead to seek out any fancy beans, so I used plain Great Northern beans instead for Tuscan White Beans (from How Easy is That).
To me, lamb is special. We had it on holidays, and I think that made us kind of weird in my small Midwestern hometown. My dad was a grocer, and he remembers selling very little lamb in his 4+ decades in the industry. My mom, however, grew up on the East Coast, where lamb was standard holiday fare. During my childhood, we befriended an older gentleman who was also from the East Coast – from New York. He was an Episcopal priest, and an old crusty bachelor who had never married and never had children. His parents were from England and Scotland, and he spoke with the generic British Isles accent that many children of the 1920s with immigrant parents seem to have adopted, at least in my imagination. He became a surrogate grandparent for us, spending most weekends and all holidays with us. Over the years, he just became a fixture at our dining room table, and then in a wingback chair by the fireplace. When I smell lamb cooking in the oven, I think of him. When this was cooking, I can’t tell you how many times I said, “Oh my God. The whole house smells like David. We need some gin.” David stories, and David-isms have become such a part of our family vocabulary that I can’t imagine our family history without him in the center of it. He would have loved this meal, and the celebratory air around it. He doubtless would have had a lot of commentary about it, and the French, and probably a story about Prohibition and the Great War to go with it.