In Italy, Greece and other European countries, lamb is often the meat of choice for the Easter meal. It is finest at this time of year as the sheep have just given birth, hence you are munching on Spring lamb, aka incredibly tender baby lamb. Just put those cute little fuzzy furry images out of your mind, or skip this post if it’s too much to handle… When sister arrived from New York a few weeks ago, she pulled what looked like a large leg of lamb out of her luggage. We decided it wouldn’t fit into the menu over the next few days, so while I am loath to freeze good meat, we threw it into the freezer and frankly, nearly forgot it was there.
Turns out it wasn’t a leg of lamb, but 1/4 of a whole baby lamb! She had visited the greek butcher at the International Meat Market in Astoria, Queens (old post on the store, here), and the Spring lamb had just arrived so she decided to bring some home to Manila. Raised on a farm in the Midwest, these baby lamb are sought after by the Greek-American community that apparently line up for hours right before Easter to make sure they have their lamb… The piece included a small upper part of a leg, and the chops/ribs of the tiny lamb. It was the first time I have seen a piece like this, and I was a bit concerned I wouldn’t know how to cook it properly.
Instead of doing anything fancy, I simply cut slits into the lamb and inserted whole cloves of garlic. Chopped up some fresh rosemary and rubbed that all over the piece of lamb, then added generous amounts of salt and pepper. Into a low 320F oven it went, and though I cooked it for 1.5 hours for a 4 pound piece (thinking that would be medium rare), the manner in which the piece was cut meant I had overcooked it slightly and probably 1.25 hours or so would have sufficed. I increased the temperature for the last 10 minutes or so to crisp up the skin. From the drippings, I simply added a little corn starch, some white wine, chicken broth and made a simple gravy. The results? UTTERLY SUPERB. The finest lamb I have EVER eaten. I kid you not. The meat, while slightly overdone, was incredibly tender, with a wonderful texture and aroma that was unmistakably lamb, but with a subtlety and sophistication that I have never run across before. Thinking I must have just been hungry or even famished when sitting down to eat, I looked at the other 5 diners and every single one of them thought this was an exceptional dish.
We served some roasted baby potatoes, onions, red peppers, artichoke hearts and mushrooms with the lamb, as well as a spinach and beet salad with salted pecans for a really easy, incredibly delicious meal. If you are into lamb, you may want to check these links to a roast leg of lamb dinner we did a while back, or these grilled lamb chops a la Ming Tsai, or a lamb gyro pita we enjoyed in Athens, or these crispy deboned lamb ribs at Hutong in Hong Kong that were insanely good, or do you remember this stunning roast baby abbacchio that Margarita Fores prepared for a surprise birthday party when I turned 45?, that turned into a delicious roasted baby lamb adobo the following day, or try a lamb and vegetable tagine, or get a local lamb gyro at Mano’s Greek Taverna in Tagaytay, or finally, this easy recipe for lamb chops with balsamic vinegar and garlic that Mrs. MM likes to serve with garlic mashed potatoes.
Happy Easter to all of you!
P.S. For other Easter related posts, try:
Ham at the center of an Easter Meal
A bowl of Easter chocolates
An Ostrich Egg – In case hen’s eggs are too small for your artistic toddler to paint… :)
How about a Mezze Style Lunch as a healthy alternative this holiday season, you could always add some roast lamb to complete the meal…
Decorated Easter Eggs a la Marketman
Easter cookies and sweets
Another Easter Post
Some Easter Flowers
More Easter Eggs…
…turned into Egg Salad Sandwiches
And finally, a primer on eggs, as a pre-cursor to coloring or eating them.