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Chef Walter’s Flavors + Knowledge: Easter Roasted Leg of Lamb

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

 

The celebration of Easter is also a time of glorifying religious foods. Many sweets are made specifically for this holiday, but the most symbolic remains the offering of lamb. Historically the reference to lamb in Christianity goes back to the book of Genesis, when Abraham was asked to sacrifice his son. In the 17th century the Pope adopted a whole roasted lamb on a Vatican’s Easter Dinner and has been a tradition ever since. Your favorite butcher may guide you in selecting the best leg of lamb for this application. Below a simple recipe that guarantees great results in flavors and appearance.

Easter Roasted Leg of Lamb

Servings: 6

Ingredients

• 2 whole lemons

• 5 garlic cloves, minced

• 1/3 cup finely chopped fresh Italian parsley

• 2 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for coating the meat

• Kosher salt

• Freshly ground black pepper

• 1 (4-pound) boneless leg of lamb, netting removed

• 1-1/2 cup red wine

• 2 cups of carrots, celery and onion (combined), diced

• 1 cup water

• 3 bay leaves

• Butcher’s twine

Instructions

• Heat the oven to 400°F and arrange a rack in the middle.

• Finely grate the zest from the lemons. (If you’re using a vegetable peeler, finely chop the peeled zest.) Place the lemon zest, garlic, parsley, and measured oil in a medium bowl and season with salt and pepper. Stir until an evenly combined paste forms; set aside. This sauce-paste is called Gremolata. Traditionally served with veal, it is also an excellent accompaniment for fish and seafood dishes. In the summer time it pairs well with cold pasta salads.

• Unroll the lamb, lay it flat on a cutting board, and remove any large pieces of gristle, sinew, or fat. Season the top surface of the lamb generously with salt and pepper, then, using your hands, spread the lemon-garlic-parsley paste over the seasoned meat. Roll the lamb back up and tie it in several places, about 1 to 2 inches apart, with butcher’s twine. Rub some olive oil, salt, and pepper all over the outside of the lamb and place it in a shallow baking dish.

• At this stage add a cup of your favorite red wine, and celery carrots and onion. I suggest a good Cabernet or a lighter Merlot along with half cup of water and bay leaves. This will create a wonderful base for a flavorful sauce.

• Roast in the oven until the internal temperature reads 135°F to 140°F on an instant-read thermometer, about 1 hour. Transfer the lamb to a cutting board and let it rest for 10 to 15 minutes.

• Meanwhile pour the liquid remaining in the roasting pan in a small saucepan. Add more water if necessary and bring to a light simmer until reduced by half. Adjust seasoning, strain and keep warm.

• Remove the twine from the leg of lamb, carve, drizzle with pan sauce and serve with lemon roasted potatoes.

Roasted potatoes with lemon

Ingredients

• 4 large russet potatoes cut lengthwise into sixths

• 1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice

• 1/4 cup olive oil

• 1/4 cup water

• 4 teaspoons dried oregano

• 4 teaspoons kosher salt

• 2 teaspoons lightly packed lemon zest

• 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Instructions

• Heat the oven to 450°F and arrange a rack in the middle. Place potatoes in a single layer on a baking sheet. Add all remaining ingredients and toss to coat potatoes.

• Bake until potatoes are well browned and crispy on all sides, turning halfway through, about 1 hour and 15 minutes.

Guide on lamb selection

The flavor and the texture of lamb can differ considerably from place to place, reflecting everything from what the animals eat to the physical characteristics of particular breeds. Because sheep farming remains a small industry in the United States when compared with those of beef and pork, your local supermarket is more likely to carry frozen cuts of lamb raised in Australia or New Zealand—the world's top lamb-exporting countries—than it is fresh domestic meat. Most New Zealand lamb is almost entirely pasture fed, usually in fields rich with ryegrass and clover, which accounts for the meat's characteristic leanness. New Zealand lamb is also distinctly flavored: the most common breed in the country, Merino, is also raised for wool and has a strong, almost mutton-y flavor. Because New Zealand lambs come to market very young, typically at six or seven months of age, they have smaller frames that yield petite, tender rib chops.

Australian lamb, though it's slaughtered when a bit older, has a milder taste and richer marbling—the results of both breeding and the fact that the animals are sometimes fed grain during the last weeks of their lives. Free-range, grass-fed Icelandic lamb is exceptionally fine grained and mild tasting; it is prized by chefs and increasingly sold in the United States at specialty markets. It is available only in the fall, when Iceland's lambs (of a shaggy-haired pure breed known simply as Icelandic lamb) reach their market weight.

Most varieties of American lamb are cross-bred from wool breeds like Columbia and meat breeds such as the Suffolk and are raised in large herds in the high rangelands of the Western states. Colorado lamb, one of the most predominant domestic varieties, is pasture fed and given a diet of corn before slaughter to make it yield princely cuts of richly marbled meat. Farmers east of the Mississippi typically raise smaller herds of small, lean-fleshed, and entirely grass-fed sheep. Farmers' markets are the best sources for grass-fed lamb. (Saveur Magazine)

 

Master Chef Walter Potenza is the owner of Potenza Ristorante in Cranston, Chef Walters Cooking School and Chef Walters Fine Foods. His fields of expertise include Italian Regional Cooking, Historical Cooking from the Roman Empire to the Unification of Italy, Sephardic Jewish Italian Cooking, Terracotta Cooking, Diabetes and Celiac. Recipient of National and International accolades, awarded by the Italian Government as Ambassador of Italian Gastronomy in the World. Currently on ABC6 with Cooking Show “Eat Well." www.chefwalter.com / http://www.chefwalter.blog.com/

 

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