Sooo... it's the day before Easter and you're still mulling over the age-old spring conundrum, "Ham or Lamb?"
Was talking to a friend earlier in the week and he was excitedly relaying the list of wine possibilities he'd be serving with the lamb at his house on Easter,
"Well, my brother the winemaker is coming over, so, we'll probably have some of HIS wine, but, there's a special bottle from Abreu in Napa that merits investigation, then I'm thinking Syrah from Walla Walla..."
Matt was running out of fingers on one hand as he counted the potential candidates, realizing that with 8 adults, there were more tasting opportunities.
"So you guys are a 'lamb' family on Easter?" I chided, "some folks are rock-solid 'ham-fams' on the blessed day."
"Ehhhh-No. Can't stand ham," Matt offered, "It's just so...I dunno...haaaa-mmm!" He stood there looking down at the ground, searching for the right vocabulary, trying not to offend, shaking his head. When an attorney who loves the whole food experience is found to be at a loss for descriptive narrative, this is indeed double-jeopardy.
"I just don't like it." he concluded, looking up with a boy-ish smile, tilt of the head and a shrug of the shoulders.
I nodded and smiled,
"But you know, Matt, with a good mustard or variety of mustards, ham can be quite delicious."
"It's still ham," he blurted.
For some strange reason, there was a compelling need to defend the cured pork leg; it couldn't stand on it's own for heaven's sake. It was after Mass and we were headed to coffee/donuts in the parish hall where there is usually good-natured ribbing going on.
A good ham can be spectacularly presented, I continued, expertly carved and arranged on a massive tray, garnished with any number of fruit and herbaceous items (oranges slices, crowns, sprigs of fresh garden herbs...) and prepared well in advance. Playing devil's advocate, I pressed my point.
"Ham is easy, it can be sweet AND savory. It's colorful, festive and has a storied tradition on Easter tables. Kids love it, old people adore it. There are different styles of ham, too. You can get a boneless, pit, shank, butt-end and that one over at Costco, the Carver Ham. It's flippin' gorgeous! It must be off the shoulder, it's a one to two-muscle piece that is like eating bacon!
Then, there's the pot of beans, split pea soup, sandwiches and casseroles to be made with the left-overs. And have I mentioned price? It's about 1/3 the cost of a boneless leg of lamb."
I rested my case and waited for Matt's rebuttal.
"It's still a ham," he whispered, biting his lip and looking away.
"SO-oooo...," he came back with a straight face, "what are you guys bringing for Easter, again?"
"Lisa is making her mom's deviled eggs, cheesy potato casserole and some candy for the egg hunt."
"And...you...are...bringing...?" he queried.
Lamb, of course!
Leg of Lamb at Matt and AnaMaria's on Easter
1-boneless leg of lamb, about 4 lbs, tied or netted
5-sprigs fresh garden rosemary
5-sprigs fresh garden thyme
1/2 C.-dried fruit: cherries, apricots, or figs. I'll have to check the pantry.
5-cloves peeled garlic, whole
Pre-heat your oven to 275 degrees. Yes, 2-7-5, don't ask questions.
Gently open the leg and instert the whole sprigs of rosemary and thyme. With your thumb, press the dried fruit and garlic along side the herbs into the leg. Now, reassemble your boneless leg if it has gotten out of shape. Spinkle with kosher salt and place in the oven until a 130 degreee internal temp is reached. If you haven't bought a digital probe thermometer by now, go get one at your favorite supermarket. They're cheap as heck these days and will take the guess work out of roasting meats. Allow 1 1/2 hours for the roast, but, give yourself an extra 1/2 hour since all ovens work differently. The roast must rest for AT LEAST 1/2 hour before carving. It's OK to serve it at room temp, just not cold.
This is a simple basic preparation that will pair wonderfully with the season and good company.
Take care, God bless and remember,
"Food, Faith, Family and Friends,
the Best Things in Life aren't Things!"