Food & Drink

I'm Chris - or Christopher - or Mr. Dean - or Master Christopher - or just plain Sir. I'm a self-professed foodie. I love to cook and I take great pleasure in all things edible. My husband and I are relatively new to Portland, Oregon and are enjoying our culinary explorations of the area!

Food is NOT just fuel!

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Roman-Style Lamb

I'm a sucker for a good lamb dish - especially as cooler weather starts rolling in. Typically I make some sort of stew or thick dish with chunks of lamb shoulder - OR I simply roast a whole shoulder. I was flipping through Molto Italiano by Mario Batali and ran across a recipe for Roman-Style lamb. Of course he calls for a delicious and tender spring lamb, but alas, it's fall! So I went ahead with the dish anyway...such a rebel.

What I found really interesting as I was making this dish is the amount of liquid that is added, and that it's expected to basically all cook away. About halfway through the final stage of the recipe (cooking out 2 cups of wine) I said to keith "I'm not sure this is going to work." He walked up behind me and whispered in my ear "trust in Mario." :) So I did.

With my trust firmly reinstated I forged ahead, stirring often and adding more and more wine as it cooked away. Lo and behold I was knocked over with the flavor of the gorgeously cooked pieces of lamb. I think I may have cut them a little too small, but as some of the pieces broke apart slightly in the cooking, they became intensely flavored and delicious. And while I opted for a boneless shoulder instead of the bone-in version he suggests, I couldn't have been more pleased. This lamb dish just sky-rocketed to the top of my favorites. I can see this becoming a cool weather staple in this house - and something I'll cook for friends and family. Nothing says love like an explosion of flavor!

I did have one missing component that I'm sure will add even more depth to the flavor: anchovies. Mario uses them as seasoning rather than to add a distinctive fish flavor. I completely forgot to buy some at the store. In my frustration over forgetting the anchovies I did add a splash of fish sauce and a little extra salt (components I figured would have been reminiscent of anchovies) and it seemed to work just fine. Next time I'll do the anchovies - I'm sure they melt into the dish and you wouldn't even know they were there except for a slightly more complex flavor to the dish.

So as the temperature begins to descend, I whole-heartedly recommend this lamb dish. And make lots - the leftovers are just as good!! I served the lamb with some mashed purple potatoes - great pairing, if a bit heavy.

Roman-Style Lamb, by Mario Batali from "Molto Italiano"
5 Tbl extra virgin olive oil
5 cloves garlic, 1 finely chopped, 4 left whole
4 pounds lamb shoulder (he calls for bone in), cut into 2-inch pieces (for bone in, you'd need a butcher to do this)
2 sprigs rosemary, leaves only
4 salt-packed anchovies, filleted, rinsed and drained
1/2 C white wine vinegar
1 Tbl salt, plus more to taste
2 C dry white wine
1 Tbl parsley, chiffonade
12 fresh mint leaves

In a large deep heavy-bottomed skillet (I used my dutch oven and it worked great), combine the olive oil and whole garlic cloves and saute over medium heat until the garlic begins to brown, about 5 minutes. Remove the garlic and set aside. Increase the heat to medium-high, add the lamb, working in batches to avoid overcrowding the pan, and brown well on all sides. Transfer to a shallow bowl.

Meanwhile, in a small bowl, combine the rosemary, anchovies, vinegar, salt and chopped garlic and mix well. Add the vinegar mixture to the meat, tossing to coat, and return to the pan. Reduce the heat to medium-low and cook slowly until the vinegar evaporates, about 10 minutes. Add half of the wine and the reserved whole garlic cloves and cook until the meat is tender, about 1 hour. As the wine evaporates, add the remaining wine as needed.

Transfer the lamb to warmed plates, sprinkle with parsley and mint, and serve immediately.


  1. I need Keith right behind me whispering in my ear to trust in Mario b/c this isn't looking good to me...not like your picture. I will have faith and let you know.

  2. To be fair, this was, I am sure, totally all my fault. After a night of pondering I needed to say what went wrong. I think the first thing was that I didn't brown enough. You said brown "well" and I didn't do it well enough. This lead to the meat being gray and tough and that liquid never fully evaporated. Perhaps I was not cooking hot enough, but I didn't want to overcook my already overcooked lamb. The flavor itself was great, but the meat was tough. It could also have been the meat itself, but I blame my technique vs. the meat or recipe. Le sigh.

  3. Holly - I feel your pain. I was having the exact same issues. And when the liquid wasn't cooking away was when I nearly gave up. One thing I'm not sure I mentioned is that the grand Mario Batali cooks at a higher & hotter temperature than most chefs, and that little tidbit is what got me through. By turning up the heat just a touch I got the liquid to cook away, and the flavors to come together. I love how explorative you are with food and your family. Maybe we'll put this on the list of things we will cook together when you come for a visit. :)