Lamb for Easter may start a nice family tradition.By Nancy Harmon Jenkins
Back in the day -- the 1970s -- during one Easter week I was planning a Sunday feast at our family farmhouse in the hills of eastern Tuscany.
I think of that meal every year as Easter looms because I outdid myself. Somehow everything fell into place, as it often does -- the lamb was tender, the early peas and fava beans had all the immaculate delicacy of new spring vegetables, and the wine was a perfect match.
But what was most wonderful was the lamb, a couple of legs of a very young critter that I prepared from a recipe developed by an old friend, Sara Armstrong, once the chef-doyenne of the renowned Copper Kettle restaurant in Aspen, Colo. She too had traveled the world, but as a diplomat rather than a journalist, and had assembled a vast collection of recipes that were the backbone of that amazing establishment.
It's been years since the Copper Kettle closed, and Sara has long since gone to the great kitchen in the sky, but every year at Easter I try to make what she called simply "Roast Lamb With Dill." I cook it in memory of her, and I call it "Slow-Roasted Lamb for Easter."
Slow-Roasted Lamb for Easter
3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1 leg of lamb, partially boned to make it easier to carve, weighing about 3 or 4 pounds
¾ cup unsulphured molasses
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Fresh tarragon, finely chopped to make 1 tablespoon
Fresh dill, finely chopped to make 4 tablespoons
½ teaspoon ground coriander
¾ cup very strong black coffee
¾ cup dry white wine
6 hard-cooked eggs, yolks and whites separate, whites chopped
3 tablespoons aged red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon finely minced flat-leaf parsley
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
1. Prepare the lamb by inserting garlic slivers all over the fleshiest parts of the leg. Use a small sharp-pointed knife to make incisions and slip the garlic slivers in. Let stand at room temperature for 2 hours before roasting.
2. Preheat the oven to 275 F.
3. Set the lamb leg on a rack in a roasting pan. Rub the leg all over with the molasses, then (first washing and drying your hands) sprinkle generously with salt, pepper and tarragon, plus half the dill and the coriander.
4. Roast the lamb in the preheated oven for about 3½ hours, or until a meat thermometer reads 170 F. Baste the lamb every 30 minutes or so with a mixture of coffee and wine, gradually blending in the accumulated juices on the bottom of the roasting pan.
5. When the roast is done, remove but keep it warm while you prepare the sauce to serve with it.
6. In a small saucepan, crush the egg yolks with a fork into the vinegar. Blend in the remaining dill and the parsley.
7. Strain the juices from the roasting pan, removing as much fat as possible. Add them to the saucepan, set the pan over low heat and blend with the egg mash.
8. Add lemon juice and blend, then taste and adjust the salt and pepper.
9. Finally stir in the coarsely chopped egg whites. Bring the sauce to a boil just before serving.
10. Carve the lamb in thin slices and pass the sauce.
Nancy Harmon Jenkins is the author of several books, including "Cucina del Sole: A Celebration of the Cuisines of Southern Italy" and "The Essential Mediterranean."
Also fresh on Zester Daily: