Right okay, Odysseus returns to Ithaca after finishing shopping for the stuff that Penelope asked him to pick up on the way back from the Trojan wars. He arrives home in time to run a spear through Ted Allen and Scott “I hate raw onions” Conant. “Oh Penny, I’m home.” “Ody did you pick up the fregola in Sardegna?” “Yes, dear and I grabbed some blood oranges and olives in Sicily. Has little Telemachus finished his homework?” “Yes, he’s upstairs playing with his Izeus whatever that is. OH! And is this for me? Mint from the hills of Corsica. How sweet of you.”
Yuck, yuck, yuck. This is a recipe that I adapted from an old standby for leg of lamb which I use often. Good challenge in that I was able to tweak a bunch of ingredients and still have it turn out well. You are not going to find Greek lamb in America anytime soon, but I’d advise you to avoid the siren song of the stuff that is raised in the antipodes (Australia and New Zealand) if at all possible; it’s not that good but it’s what is flooding the market (and COSTCO). There is a better domestic product from Colorado (which I used), but very fine lamb is coming from Iceland as well.
Test Kitchen Notes
Pierino thinks up great names for recipes, and when I read the word “Homeric” here I was hooked. Besides the name, the lamb turned out well AND was easy to make. The butcher did the honors with the boning and the roast went into the oven within 30 minutes. No blood oranges, alas, but I had farmer’s market feta, Sicilian olives, and Sicilian wine. The wine does taste very Homeric, rough and spicy, and brings the phrase “wine dark sea” to mind persistently. Lamb and salt go so well together -- the olives and feta were a brilliant coupling, pierino! - luvcookbooks —Food52
½ pound boneless leg of lamb. It’s pretty easy to bone out yourself if you are so inclined and you can put the bone to other uses but otherwise ask you butcher
or 8 blood oranges (tarocchi)
red wine, preferably Sicilian
Sicilian olives (big fat ones, I used a combination of black and red)
crumbled feta cheese divided (that would be two ¼ cups if I have my math right)
fregola grassa (sardegnan couscous)
medium red onion
bunch mint, the freshest you can find
Sea salt (of course)
Ground black pepper to your taste
Extra virgin olive oil
In This Recipe
Pit the olives and chop them roughly, this will be for the filling
Open up the lamb and with a very sharp knife cross hatch the meat without going through to the skin. Season with salt and pepper. Add the olives and a portion of the feta and spread over the interior surface
Cut a single length of kitchen string, long enough to tie up the whole piece of lamb in a jelly roll form (you know how to do this right? Be sure to keep your seams straight)
Cut the garlic into slivers. With a sharp knife put some small slits into the lamb. Lard with the garlic slivers.
Season generously with more sea salt
Heat your oven to 350? to 375? (you decide)
Peel and thinly slice the red onion. Oil a roasting pan and cover the bottom of the pan with the onion slices
Juice all but two of the blood oranges. You will need about ½ cup of squeezed juice. In a small sauce pan combine the orange juice and the wine and heat up slowly. You will want to keep this warm on a burner (maybe over a flame tamer) for the duration
Baste the lamb with the warm juice and wine mixture---I assure you will be fragrant. Place the lamb in the oven. Allow about 1 to 1 ½ hours cooking time. Baste every twenty minutes. Check the lamb temperature with an instant read thermometer. When it hits 140? remove the pan and tent with aluminum foil. Let this rest for ten minutes. Personally I don’t like lamb “well done.”
While the lamb is roasting/resting prepare the couscous to package directions. Chop up a big old handful of fresh mint. Throw some of that on top of the lamb while it’s still tented. Peel the remaining two oranges and cut them into segments (supremes).
To plate, carve the lamb, spoon out couscous and top that with crumbled feta and more chopped mint. Garnish with blood orange segments.
Standup commis flâneur, and food historian. Pierino's background is in Italian and Spanish cooking but of late he's focused on frozen desserts. He is now finishing his cookbook, MALAVIDA! Can it get worse? Yes, it can. Visit the Malavida Brass Knuckle cooking page at Facebook and your posts are welcome there.