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SEASONS EATINGS

By March 30, 2022No Comments

Lamb 3 ways

Spring is traditionally the season for lamb,

but it shouldn’t be tapped as a menu choice only for special occasions. Rich in flavor, lamb is the perfect foil for Middle Eastern and Asian spices, and preparation options are endless. You can grill chops, braise shanks and slow-roast a leg (or use your Instant Pot). Lamb is a standing option at restaurants such as Toro Toro Fort Worth, where the wood-grilled lamb chops are some of the best in town. Delucca Gaucho’s Turkish Lamb pie spiked with sumac and red onion is one of the standouts on the pizza menu. Malai Kitchen serves its lamb shank in a rich massaman curry over jasmine rice. Here are three of our favorite home-cooked dishes. — Meda Kessler

Roasted Leg of Lamb with Potatoes

Serves 4 to 6

  • 1 small to medium bone-in leg of lamb
  • 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • Juice of half a lemon
  • 1 tablespoon fresh thyme, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons fresh rosemary, chopped, with extra sprigs for garnish
  • 8 to 10 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon each kosher salt and coarsely ground black pepper
  • Potatoes
  • 2 pounds baby new potatoes, halved
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • Kosher salt and black pepper, to taste 
  • 1 tablespoon dried thyme

Trim most of the thick layer of fat from the lamb and allow the meat to sit at room temperature for about 20 minutes. 

In the meantime, mix all ingredients in a small bowl.

Using your hands, rub mixture onto lamb. Set aside.

Heat oven to 350 degrees. 

Place potatoes in a roasting pan or large casserole dish. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt, pepper and thyme. Toss potatoes to coat on all sides.

Place leg of lamb on bed of potatoes. Roast uncovered for 1½ to 2 hours or until internal temperature in the thickest part of the leg reads 135 degrees. 

Remove from oven and allow meat to rest for 15 minutes before slicing. 

Using a slotted spoon, dish out a few new potatoes to accompany a slice of lamb. Garnish with sprigs of fresh rosemary.

This classic spring dish makes for a beautiful presentation. Don’t be shy about adding lots of garlic and herbs; both pair beautifully with lamb. Cooking time depends on if you want to serve the lamb medium-rare or meat that’s super tender. We like it to be pink on the inside.

For Easter brunch at home, use seasoned ground lamb for a Moroccan-style stew in which you bake eggs for a one-dish presentation. Serve with warm naan or pita bread.

Moroccan Eggs with Lamb and Yogurt

Serves 6

  • 1 tablespoon each fennel seed and cumin seed
  • Olive oil
  • ½ onion, diced
  • 5 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 pound ground lamb
  • 2 teaspoons smoked paprika
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • ½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • ½ teaspoon cinnamon
  • Salt 
  • 1 (14-ounce) can fire-roasted diced tomatoes with juice
  • 2 cups chopped fresh spinach
  • ¼ cup water
  • 6 eggs
  • Freshly ground pepper
  • 1 cup plain yogurt
  • 1 teaspoon (more if you like things spicy) harissa, or substitute hot paprika or a sauce such as Sriracha
  • Small bunch fresh parsley or cilantro

Toast fennel and cumin seeds in a dry skillet over medium-high heat until fragrant. Set aside.

In a large ovenproof skillet over medium heat, drizzle olive oil and add onion, garlic and lamb. Saute, adding the rest of the spices and the toasted seeds, until lamb is cooked through. Add tomatoes, spinach and water. Cover and simmer over low heat for about 10 minutes.

Taste and adjust seasonings; if mixture is dry, add a bit more water.

Using the back of spoon, make six “wells” in the stew. Crack one egg into each well. Grind pepper over each egg.

Heat oven to 375 degrees. Add skillet and bake until egg whites are set, 7 to 10 minutes. Yolks should still be soft.

While eggs cook, mix yogurt and harissa.

Remove skillet from oven and top stew with yogurt mixture and chopped parsley or cilantro.

Lamb Shanks in White Wine with Leeks and Orange

Serves 4

  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 4 lamb shanks
  • ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 large or 2 medium leeks, cut in half and sliced
  • 4 large carrots, sliced
  • 4 rosemary sprigs
  • 8 thyme sprigs
  • Zest of 1 orange
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 3 cups chicken or vegetable broth
  • 1 lemon, cut into 4 wedges
  • Chopped fresh chives, for garnish

Mix salt and pepper with flour in a pie plate; roll shanks in seasoned flour to coat.

Heat oil in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat until just sizzling but not smoking; brown shanks evenly on all sides, about 10 minutes total. Remove shanks to plate.

Heat oven to 325 degrees.

Lower cooktop heat to medium; add garlic, leeks, carrots, rosemary, thyme and orange zest to pan and stir, cooking just till vegetables begin to brown, about 5 minutes. Pour wine into pot and increase heat to allow mixture to boil gently, stirring and scraping bottom of pot to incorporate browned bits. Add broth, reduce to simmer and cook 1 to 2 minutes.

Remove from heat, add shanks back to pot, cover and place in oven for 2½ to 3 hours or until tender (when meat easily pulls away from bone). Remove from oven and transfer shanks to serving plates; cover loosely with foil. Return pot to stovetop, and cook mixture over low heat until it thickens a bit. Remove rosemary and thyme sprigs.

Serve shanks with polenta (recipe below) or noodles. Squeeze lemon wedge over each serving, and garnish with chopped chives. Fresh rosemary sprigs add to the presentation.

In a springtime twist on lamb osso buco, lamb shanks get a lighter treatment with white wine instead of red, plus accompaniments of leeks and carrots for seasonal color. Lamb always begs for rosemary, and we like fresh thyme, too. Pair them with polenta (recipe follows), smashed fingerling potatoes and a seasonal green vegetable such as broccolini or asparagus. — June Naylor

A favorite from Roma: Authentic Recipes from in and Around the Eternal City by Julia Della Croce, this traditional polenta gets a verdant infusion from kale. Slowly cooked into the creamy grains, the vegetable becomes one with the starch. It’s the perfect complement to lamb.

Green Polenta 

Serves 4

  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • Pinch red pepper flakes
  • 5 cups cold water (plus boiling water, if necessary)
  • 1½ cups coarsely chopped kale leaves
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 cup polenta (not instant) or coarse cornmeal
  • Cracked black pepper and grated Parmesan for garnish

Over low heat in a deep, heavy-bottom pot, warm olive oil with garlic and red pepper flakes until garlic is softened, about 2 minutes. Add cold water and bring to boil. 

Stir in kale and cook until almost tender, about 7 minutes. Reduce heat to medium; add salt, followed by polenta, raining in grains very gradually, using a wooden spoon to stir constantly and always in one direction to keep lumps from forming and the temperature constant. Polenta is cooked when it easily pulls away from side of pan, about 30 minutes. If thick but not pulling away from pan, add scant amounts of boiling water and continue stirring until ready. 

Serve hot with a drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil on top. Finish with cracked black pepper and a scattering of grated Parmesan.

 

On the Side

Broccolini with romesco sauce

Blanch broccolini until it turns a vivid green but is still crisp. Drain and shock briefly in ice bath; drain and serve topped with your favorite take on a romesco sauce. 

Asparagus with grape tomatoes

Blanch asparagus briefly and shock the spears in an ice bath; drain and serve with sliced grape tomatoes, minced shallot, capers, lemon zest and a little olive oil whisked with white balsamic vinegar and a pinch or two of dried herbes de Provence.

Smashed fingerling potatoes

Add potatoes to a rimmed baking sheet lined with parchment paper and drizzle with olive oil and sea salt. Roast about 20 minutes at 350 degrees until you can just pierce with a fork. Using a spatula or large fork, crush each potato till it’s a bit flat and return to oven for an additional 10 minutes; potatoes should be crispy outside. Remove from oven and dust with cracked black pepper and dried, minced thyme leaves to serve.