Say that title fast. Repeat it twice, or thrice. Hahaha. So here it is, the conclusion to this teaser on the whole roasted lamb. The finished roast wasn’t pretty, but it tasted pretty good for a first time experiment, and there were some lessons learned! :)
We had acquired the lamb before we had any specific “occasion” to use it… but it wasn’t that hard to scare up 14 friends and colleagues to an experimental lamb dinner, all willing “guinea pigs” of sorts… :) Nearly half a dozen of the guests also happen to to be blog readers (susie, wahini, artisan, joan and non-commenters). The casual setting was outdoors on the Zubuchon terrace, the table set simply with blue/white tablecloth and yellow roses. It had poured the night before so we had a tent on standby nearby, but the weather that evening was perfect. Lots of katol (mosquito coils) in the nearby bushes to ward off blood-suckers and roughly 60 candles and low wattage capiz lamps illuminated the setting.
If you recall on my previous post on the lamb, it had just gone been placed on the coals… here is another photo of the beast after about 3 hours of slow roasting. Frankly, everyone who saw it commented that it looked ugly, a bit alien-like, if not a stripped down version of an emaciated human. Unkind thoughts, but truly, it wasn’t pretty. Not like the tanned and glistening little truffle piggy roasting nearby… :) I guess the skinless nature of the lamb made it less than visually appealing, more primal… The lechoneros continued to baste the lamb every thirty minutes or so, trying to ensure that its skin was always glossy and moist, not dried out and in need of serious amounts of the animal equivalent of oil of olay…
I have a tendency to discombobulate our crew with these sudden unscheduled feasts, and I should make it clear that these seemingly “impromptu meals” actually require a LOT of work. If not for the folks in the kitchen, lechonan and waitstaff, there is no way we could do these “dinners” a la Marketman. We have great crew, and they are getting better every time we do another outdoor event. Here, the two large lechon trays made of unfinished acacia are laid out on the brick buffet table. At least 4-5 cooks/chefs ready the grill, a portable roasting pit is set up, three waiters are at the ready…
Charcoal fires were lit about an hour before guests were scheduled to arrive. I am not sure what kind of steroids this batch of charcoal were on, but there were serious fireworks, making for cool photos that Mrs. MM shot while I ran around doing last minute tasks…
…the sparks reached a good 8-9 feet into the air! In the foil packets are small potatoes steaming with a little bit of water and butter. They took less than 30 minutes to cook on this inferno. :)
Once the coals died down to more manageable levels, the crew grilled red and yellow peppers, large sweet onions, eggplant and zucchini slices, whole cherry tomatoes and thin slices of butternut squash.
The lamb had been removed from the coals near our lechon cooking pits, and transferred to a makeshift grill near the terrace, where dinners would gather for appetizers and drinks. This was just to keep it warm and “for show” when guests arrived. It was then transferred to the buffet where it rested for at least 20 minutes before carving. Guests started to pick at it while they were having drinks, and those first few pieces were absolutely delicious, if a bit undersalted. First lesson, salt GENEROUSLY. I thought I had salted a lot, but the meat can take more, I promise you. The lack of salt was not deadly, but clearly an area for improvement. The ribs were the best flavored pieces, having been internally basted with the aromatics swirling inside for 6 hours or so.
The roast lamb and pig were placed on the buffet. Here is a quick rundown of the other dishes, but no photos, unfortunately… Susie brought an Ottolenghi monggo and carrot salad with feta cheese. We had platters of grilled vegetables. Some roasted potatoes with butter and mint. A bowl of couscous with lemon and herbs. A greek salad with romaine, cucumbers, olives, onions, and feta. A starter of organic sea prawns with cocktail sauce. Several bottles of cava, a gift from guests, and some red wine and other drinks.
Diners lingered well into the evening, and the last guests left closer to midnight. But only after enjoying the wonderful desserts brought by Artisan Chocolatier — a blond fruitcake, a delicious pavlova with fresh fruit, and wonderful hand made chocolates! Artisan also left a frozen mango torte which I shared with crew the next day… thanks Susie and Artisan!
So the final tips on the lamb. It was good, and far better than I had expected for the first attempt. But it did lack a bit of salt. I also found it cooked a little too long… perhaps pulling it off an hour earlier would have been better. It dries out quickly once it cools, so eat it as within 30 minutes of coming off the flames, or re-heat small servings on a gentle fire if you like. Herb it GENEROUSLY. And while it may not be standard practice in Greece, perhaps concoct a dipping sauce of drippings and broth to ensure it is as moist as possible. Overall, I gave the lamb an 8.0 to 8.5 on a scale of 10. Readers who were at the dinner can chime in if they think I am being overly generous in my rating… :)