Easter cooking can present a dilemma to many home chefs. Will they go with the traditional ham or try lamb , another truly traditional main course? That's the conumdrum facing many. Ham is delicious and can provide with enough leftovers for a week. Lamb, is rich tasting, marrying ancient and modern times together. It's also becoming trendy thanks to a more adventurous American palate.
Kim Severson explores the two in her column in today's New York Times Food section. She herself grew up on Easter ham dinners, thanks to a mother who was raised on a dairy farm that also raised pigs. Serving ham was a no brainer.It also provided her family with more than enough leftovers for a variety of different dishes, from sandwiches to pea soup.However it is time to try lamb. It's making a comeback with a newer generation who are into Eastern Mediterranean and Middle Eastern dishes and flavors. Most older Americans have an aversion to the meat ,preferring beef and pork. One of the reasons why is that US soldiers were fed rations of lamb because the meat was so abundant. There were fifty-six million sheep in 1946. Now there is only about six million.Lamb chops themselves, are still considered a luxury item, only being served at high priced restaurants or special dinners at home.Leg of lamb can be tricky to cook and many home chefs just cooked it and slapped some mint jelly on it, hoping for the best.Today lamb is gaining in popularity with people buying lamb shanks,
lamb necks, and ribs.There is even a lamb ham that's also gaining in popularity these days.
How should you cook lamb? Ms. Severson goes back to her Italian roots and tries a Roman style Spring lamb with sugar snap peas. She gets three pounds of young lamb from the shoulder or the leg and cuts it into uniform two inch cubes. After seasoning the cubes with salt and pepper, they're cooked in lard or olive oil. it's an easy cook, putting the cubes in batches and sauteing them. Rosemary and garlic are added along with sifted flour. White wine or Champagne is poured in along with water. It's simmered for an hour. At this point take some of the sauce from it and mix it with four large anchovy fillets (it reminds me of fileto Piedmontese - where anchovies are cooked with steak juices to create a mouthwatering sauce). The sauce is then poured back into the pan and over the lamb cubes. Ms. Severson throws in a sugar snap pea salad with Calabrian peppers and fennel. This is a spicy accompaniment with a dressing made from the peppers and their oil.Lemon zest, shallot and garlic are also added along with fresh lemon juice.The snap peas are julienned while the fennel is thinly shaved. Shaved pecorino is then sprinkled on top. I would add fingerling potatoes roasted in garlic and olive oil to round it out.
Ham may be associated with Easter but lamb now is giving the traditional meat its' run. It is versatile and delicious, perfect for the holiday. Try it and taste its richness and lux flavor.