Next to abbacchio a scottadito (piping hot grilled lamb chops) and abbacchio alla cacciatora (Ada Boni's favourite way to appreciate this tender lamb – the meat is stewed with anchovies, rosemary, sage, garlic and vinegar), abbacchio al forno is one of Rome's claim to fame in the kitchen.
While the leg is small, it often comes with ribs and kidneys attached so you have more to work with, both in terms of flavour as well as volume. When doing this with regular grassfed lamb, you could even use half a leg if it's quite large. Shoulder can also be used instead of leg – again, with ribs attached if possible, or if working with a larger lamb, half a shoulder.
The lamb is prepared by slashing it deeply – almost as if cutting it into thick slices. Traditionally flavoured with garlic and rosemary, with lard acting as the vehicle to hold the marinade's flavours to the lamb, now olive oil is commonly used. The final step – the roasting – is best in a woodfired oven for those lucky enough to have them. This is one of the simplest versions of this classic dish – some add fresh sage or bay leaves; others add white wine vinegar in place of or together with the white wine; others don't use them at all. It is always cooked and served with potatoes, which become crisp, golden and moreish as they cook in and soak up the flavour of the lamb and the marinade. They will be some of the tastiest potatoes you have ever had.
You really can't go wrong with classic roast lamb, perfect for a festive, special occasion. —Emiko
Slash the leg deeply – almost as if cutting into slices – and poke cuts over the leg. Massage the smashed garlic, rosemary leaves and an appropriate amount of olive oil all over the leg, pushing the garlic and rosemary into the cuts and slashes. Season with salt. Let the leg rest while preparing the potatoes.
Wash, peel and chop the potatoes into large chunks. Place the potatoes in the bottom of a large tray, season with salt and pepper, add some olive oil to coat and toss well. Add a few sprigs of extra rosemary. Place the leg of lamb in the centre of the tray, with the potatoes around it.
Roast in a hot oven at 350º F for about an hour or -- if you want to be precise -- until a meat thermometer inserted into the leg reaches 150-160º F. Halfway through, pour the glass of wine over the lamb and give the potatoes a shake and a turn. Let the lamb rest, keeping warm under foil. You may, like I do, like to return the potatoes back to the oven for a further 10-15 minutes to crisp up further while the lamb is resting. Serve thick slices of lamb with the potatoes and a spoonful of the juices from the bottom of the pan.
The Australian-Japanese cookbook author has lived in Florence (where a visit to a cheese farm once inspired her to start a food blog) for over 10 years with her Tuscan sommelier husband and two kids. Her third cookbook, Tortellini at Midnight, is out now.