Chef Walter’s Flavors + Knowledge: Easter Roasted Leg of Lamb
Wednesday, April 16, 2014
Easter Roasted Leg of Lamb
• 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
• 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
• 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
• 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)
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Upscale Chefs go "Downscale"
It's an incredible expense of time and money to be among the best chefs around. All of those high-end ingredients cost an arm and leg and the pressure to stay on top is enormous. Most cooks began learning at the feet of their older relatives--moms and dads; grandmas and grandpas. It's this food that calls them back. We see local Chef Jake Rojas rejoice in dropping the tweezers and cooking those SoCal family recipes he grew up eating. Local faves Thames Street Kitchen embarked on a burger concept this year and Providence icon Chez Pascal has its "Wurst Window" serving homemade sausage and comfort food. They're upscale food is wonderful, but this might be their best!
More Gluten Free Options
As we continue to pay the "processed food" price, our nation's food allergies continue to soar. Restaurants have been on the forefront of the movement towards options that take these allergies into account. The gluten allergy has taken the fore as bread and pasta and coated French fries became the first food victims of this allergy. Local establishments such as the Grange have taken gluten free to new heights with terrific vegetarian offerings. On the Hill, Pane e Vino has got an almost 40-item menu of gluten free options. It features everything an Italian meal could need without the worry.
Vietnamese as the "Go-To" Asian Cuisine
Every year it seems as though America "discovers" a new Asian country's food and gets hooked. This year it's the foods of Vietnam. Vietnamese food and ingredients have been a part of local Asian food for years now, but this time it stands on its own. Vietnam's food is highlighted by fresh, simple ingredients treated respectfully and flavorfully. Broths and noodles; lightly cooked meats and fresh vegetables all combine in a balanced meal. Locally we love Pho Horn in Pawtucket and Minh Hai in Cranston. Both are very good local versions of this wonderful cuisine.
Look...here's the problem with us Americans: we only eat the mild stuff. The muscle meat. It's chicken breast and tenderloin and striped bass filets. The problem with this style of eating is what it does to our ecosystem. Local fishermen used to be able to catch a bounty of swordfish BETWEEN the mainland and Block Island, now it's a day's trip to find them. Local chefs and fishermen are working diligently to bring back the mackerel and the sardine and the scup. Fish we have long since forgotten, but helped our forefathers thrive. Check out any of our top-notch "farm to table" spots--Persimmon in Bristol or Farmstead in Providence for example--to try a forgotten yet delicious fish.
As with most things food and beverage, the last 10 years have seen a move towards "smaller is better". Big box stores are gone and chain restaurants are suffering locally. It was only a matter of time until these ideas began making their way into our cocktails and boy are we psyched to see what the future holds. Locally we have Sons of Liberty in South Kingstown, producing small-batch whiskey, single malts and, even vodka. Our state features Coastal Extreme Brewery which makes Thomas Tew rum along with their Newport Storm beer. We've only gotten back into the distilling business here in Rhode Island in 2006 but we think tasty things are coming soon!
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