Help with (probably simple) meat recipe!
I don't eat - and therefore am not very experience at cooking - meat, but I want to make Molly Stevens' 7 hour leg of lamb for a dinner party in a couple of weeks. The recipe calls for a 6-8 lb bone-in leg of lamb, but when I went to the butcher today so that I can make a practice run recipe, they told me that bone-in would come in at 8 lbs minimum and was way too long to put in my dutch oven. So I ended up with a 1/2 bone-in leg of lamb coming in at around 3.75 lbs. So my questions are:
1. Should I cook the meat for less than the 7 hours required by the recipe? and
2. if I go for the whole leg of lamb for the actual dinner party (because I'm trying to serve 6, so the half won't be enough) could I braise it in my roasting pan with foil on top instead of a lid?
Help! I'm normally a decent cook, but meat really makes me nervous since I can't taste it and I don't cook it that often.
Cooking time is more a function of thickness than overall weight (a 1-inch thick steak that's 1 lb. will cook as fast as a 1-inch steak weighing 2 lbs. I assume the butcher gave you the larger end of the leg roast (the "shoulder" end, not the shank end). If that's the case it should be about the same thickness as a whole leg and while it might cook faster than 7 hours (because there's less bone) it might not take almost that long.
Normally I would suggest using a digital thermometer to monitor the internal temp (can't really go wrong there). I don't think Molly Stevens provides internal temps in "All about Braising" (Love that cookbook) and I believe to achieve the fall-off-the-bone texture you need to go well past normal roasting temps. Here are two other options though:
1) Contact Molly directly and ask her advice. She's on Twitter and she regularly responds to tweets (@mstevenscooks)
2) Just follow the regular directions but start looking for signs of doneness an hour or so before the full cook time (assuming its the thick end of the leg) or if it's the shank end start checking several hours before. Check to see if the meat starts falling away from the bone as you cut into the thinner end.
As for the whole leg, a roasting pan topped with foil should work fine. That's how we braised large batches of meat when I worked in restaurants. If you want added protection, you can cut out a rectangle of parchment paper and lay it loosely on top.
One final thing: You sure a 4 lb roast isn't enough for six guests? Even assuming a half pound of meet per person (which is a lot), that's only 3 lbs. of meat you need. Even if there is a full pound of bone in there it seems you'll have plenty.