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Today: The tenderest-loving lamb roast, and a brilliant Easter feast (that leaves you plenty of time for the egg hunt).
When you spend the day ferreting around for eggs in the yard and eating chocolate bunny parts, the roast lamb supper can seem rather somber in comparison.
But not if you get Jamie Oliver involved. He'd want you to make a rustic, beautiful lamb shoulder feast, with roughly smashed root vegetables and curls of cabbage, and a spunky mint sauce to douse it all. And he'd want you to have a really good time doing it.
In case you're not so sure: last week, Lori Galvin, Cookbook Editor at America's Test Kitchen, sent me this message on Twitter: "I've made this Jamie Oliver lamb recipe 3x in 6 weeks!" Within 72 hours, we'd tested, photographed, and devoured two ourselves.
Its genius is threefold:
1. The lamb shoulder: Oliver calls for an unsung cut of meat that normally gets hacked up into chops while we gather around the more expensive leg or crown rack. Chefs like Ruth Rogers and Rose Gray, Lidia Bastianich, and Marc Vetri have been trying to tell us about it for years, but we're not very good listeners.
Like pork shoulder, there's loads of flavor tucked away inside, much richer and sweeter than your average leg of lamb -- if you know how to cook it right.
2. The roasting method: You start with your oven "at a full whack," says Oliver, a.k.a. as high as it will go (450 to 500 degrees). This blast of heat gives the roast a jump start, rendering the fat and letting it bubble down into the meat, dragging garlic and rosemary along with it.
But as soon as it goes in the oven, you immediately downshift to 325 degrees and slow-roast the thing, covered tightly with foil, for about four hours. Knotty, hard-working pieces of meat don't need much more than gentle heat and time to loosen up all that connective tissue and turn the meat into a melting heap, sliding off the bone.
3. The rest of the feast: Oliver gives us a celebratory, Beatrix Potter-colored spread that comes together in the time it takes to cook a weeknight dinner. (In fact, if you subbed quick-cooking lamb chops, this could be dinner tonight.)
Each side is left plain and good, just like the lamb. Greens (Savoy cabbage, or whatever looks good at the market) are blanched and tossed in butter, salt, and pepper. Carrots, potatoes, and rutabaga boil together, then get crushed into a sunny, speckled orange mash, with more butter.
And finally you make a pan sauce from the sticky lamb drippings and smack it to life with red wine vinegar, capers, and a lot of mint (to make up for the fact that you've forgotten mint jelly exists).
Once you're all together at the table -- your loved ones weakened in the manhunt for wayward eggs, wild-eyed from eating little but spangly chocolates all day -- Oliver has you tear apart the lamb roast with a fork. Beat that, Peeps.
For the lamb:
1 (4.4-pound) bone-in lamb shoulder
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 large bunch fresh rosemary
1 bulb garlic, unpeeled, broken into cloves
For the vegetables and mint sauce:
1 1/2 pounds peeled potatoes, cut into large chunks
3 large carrots, peeled and cut into small chunks
1/2 a large rutabaga, peeled and cut into small chunks
6 tablespoons butter (divided)
1 pound lovely greens, such as white cabbage, savoy cabbage, Brussels sprouts tops or cavolo nero, leaves separated, stalks finely sliced
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
2 cups good-quality hot chicken or vegetable stock
2 heaped tablespoons capers, soaked, drained and chopped
1 large bunch fresh mint, leaves picked
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
Got a genius recipe to share -- from a classic cookbook, an online source, or anywhere, really? Please send it my way (and tell me what's so smart about it) at [email protected].
Photos by James Ransom