Our elegant friend, Joëlle Michaud of Boussac, has often made this dish for visiting tour groups and it is always a great success. Remember that the better the quality of the meat, the juicier and tastier the dish. It is a dish that is made traditionally during the Easter festivities in France. According to custom, it is served only with garlic-flavoured white beans and smoked bacon. The bread absorbs a lot of the gravy and provides a tasty side dish.
Gigot en croute (crusty leg of lamb)
- 1 medium-sized leg of lamb
- salt and pepper, to taste
- fresh thyme
- olive oil, for frying
- 1kg bread dough
- fresh rosemary
- 1 large egg
- 300g (1 packet) kidney beans (flageolet) soaked overnight
- 250g smoked bacon
- 2 garlic cloves
De-bone the lamb and trim all fat from the meat. Rub with salt, pepper and crushed thyme and leave in a cool place for 1 hour.
Heat oil in a large casserole and brown all over. Allow to cool.
Preheat the oven to 180ºC. Roll out the bread dough until it is large enough to wrap up the leg of lamb. Chop up some rosemary and thyme and sprinkle over the rolled-out dough. Place the lamb in the centre (add more seasoning) and wrap the dough around it, making sure that it is well sealed. Whisk the egg with a fork and brush all over the dough – especially on the joins to seal them well.
Bake for 45 – 90 minutes, depending on how well done you like your lamb. (When we have a lot of guests, or if the leg of lamb is really small, we usually prepare two separate legs: we put one into the oven 15 minutes before the other so that there is a choice of pink lamb and one medium to well done.)
In the meantime, cook the beans (which have been well soaked overnight) in salted water until tender.
Finely chop the bacon, fry in a pan with the garlic until golden, and add the cooked beans. Mix well and keep warm.
When the lamb is cooked through, remove from the oven and rest for 5 minutes. Using a very sharp knife, slice the crusted lamb and serve with the prepared beans. If you like, you can remove the bread crust, which will normally come off like a hat.