Easter is the perfect time to serve lamb! Not only are lambs most readily available in the spring, but they are a reminder that the Lamb of God gave us His life for us, a truth we especially remember at this season of the year.

A spiral-cut ham is another great Easter option–and would be an easy substitute for the lamb with this menu if you prefer.

I haven’t cooked lamb until recently, and I learned something very interesting as I began researching it. In Italy, as in most other countries of the world, “lamb” is honest-to-goodness baby lamb meat. Other meat from sheep is not called “lamb”. (For instance, it’s called “mutton” in England or “motone” in Italian.)  In North America, however, any meat that comes from a lamb or a sheep is called lamb. That’s why my lamb chops (featured here) are so small, relative to lamb chops that you might purchase in North America. However, the only real difference in cooking them is to bake them a little longer when they’re thicker. (See the recipe below for details.)

How long should you marinate lamb? Well, our in-house experiment showed that there was relatively little difference in flavor between chops which marinated for 5 hours and those that marinated for 1 hour. So that’s convenient, isn’t it? That means you can put the marinade over the lamb earlier in the day, if that’s most convenient for you, or just an hour before baking. You choose.

Also through trial and error I found that while it’s possible to roast the lamb chops without browning them–the flavor is really similar–they have much more eye-appeal if you brown them quickly on the stove top and then finish them in the oven. Again, however, this could make your life easier as you might consider browning them before your guests arrive and then just finishing them off in the oven while you enjoy a first course dish.

I’ve also given some instructions in the recipe for how to use the same marinade and roast (or grill) a Leg of Lamb. I like the idea of lamb chops because I can figure two small chops per person (the ones I used) or one larger chop per person (usually about 1-1 1/2 inches thick). But perhaps you’re going to serve a gang of friends–a Leg of Lamb would then be easier. There’s lots of info and recipes on the Internet about cooking Leg of Lamb, of course, so you may want to research a bit more about them. Just use my recipe as a starting point.

Beside the lamb I’m serving two salads. Makes life easy as they can conveniently be made ahead. The first one is Green Bean and Asparagus Vinaigrette

Asparagus is a spring vegetable–and pairs nicely withe the green beans. However, you can use just one or the other, if you’d rather. The lemon vinaigrette goes so well next to the marinade on the lamb. I’ve served this dish warm or cold. It’s terrific either way.

The other side salad I’m serving is an old favorite–Grated Carrot Salad. I learned how to make it from a friend in Rome who brought it to every potluck we went to–sort of her signature dish. And she didn’t really like to cook, so that tells you how easy it is! If you prefer, you can serve it without the mayo–my friend didn’t put any on hers but I like the creaminess that a little mayo brings to the table. And the bright orange color adds so much to the plate!

So there you go…three dishes that round out our Italian Easter Feast! I hope you’ll give them a try!

Ciao!

Debbie

Herb & Lemon Marinated Lamb Chops

Herb & Lemon Marinated Lamb Chops

Ingredients

  • 4 T. olive oil
  • 4 T. lemon juice
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 2 T. fresh (or 1 T. dried) rosemary leaves, crushed or 2-3 T. fresh mint leaves, crushed
  • 8 (1-inch/2.5 cm) or 16 (1/2-inch/1.5 cm) lamb chops
  • 1-2 T. additional olive oil for browning

Instructions

  1. Combine the olive oil, lemon juice, salt and herbs.Place chops in a plastic bag and pour marinade over them, tossing to make sure they are well coated. Seal bag and marinate for at least one hour.
  2. Drain marinade from lamb chops.
  3. Heat remaining olive oil in a heavy skillet over high heat. Add drained chops and brown quickly, about 3 minutes per side. Transfer to an ovenproof pan and bake at 400° F (200° C) until desired doneness. This will depend largely on how thick your chops are, and how done you like your them. Thicker chops will take 10-15 minutes. Thinner chops may take only 5-10 additional minutes. It is also possible to bake thinner chops without browning them first. If you choose this method, I recommend using a dark metal baking pan, placed on the lower shelf of the oven, and raising the oven temperature to 450° F (230° C).
  4. Cover with foil and allow to rest 5-10 minutes before serving.
  5. This same marinade can be used with a leg of lamb. Roast at 450° F (230° C) for 20 minutes. Reduce the oven temperature to 325° F (160° C) and continue to roast until 145° F (68 degrees C) is medium-well Avoid overcooking your lamb as it can become dry and tough.
http://ciaofromdebbie.com/recipes/main-dishes/the-main-course-for-our-italian-easter-feast-2012/

Green Bean & Asparagus Vinaigrette

Yield: Serves 8

Green Bean & Asparagus Vinaigrette

Ingredients

  • 2 lbs./1 kilo fresh green beans or asparagus--or a combination of them
  • 1/2 C. slivered almonds or pine nuts, lightly toasted in a pan or oven
  • 1/2 C. shaved Parmesan
  • Vinaigrette:
  • 1/4 C. fresh parsley (one small handful; or 1 T. dried parsley)
  • 1/4 C. fresh basil leaves (one small handful; or 1 tsp. dried)
  • 2 T. lemon juice
  • 1/2 C. olive oil
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1 small clove garlic

Instructions

  1. Combine the vinaigrette ingredients in a blender or food processor. Process until smooth. Alternately, if you do not have fresh herbs, combine the dry herbs with the lemon juice, olive oil, salt and minced garlic in a glass jar. Shake to combine and set aside to marinate the flavors.
  2. Trim the stems from the green beans; snap the ends off of the asparagus. If the asparagus are large, cut them in half lengthwise so they are similar in size and shape to the beans.
  3. Steam or oven-roast the vegetables separately, just until crisp tender. If steamed, drain well and dry them on a dish towel. Then place them in a bowl, drizzle with the vinaigrette and toss to coat thoroughly. Sprinkle with most of the almonds or pine nuts and the shaved Parmesan. Toss once more and then garnish with the remaining nuts and cheese.
http://ciaofromdebbie.com/recipes/main-dishes/the-main-course-for-our-italian-easter-feast-2012/

Grated Carrot Salad

Yield: Serves 8-12

Grated Carrot Salad

Ingredients

  • 6 C. grated carrots (3 large)
  • 3-4 T. olive oil
  • 3-4 T. vinegar (white wine or apple are preferred)
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 2 T. mayonnaise
  • 2-3 T. minced parsley

Instructions

  1. Peel and grate the carrots. Drizzle oil and vinegar over them; sprinkle with salt.
  2. Add mayonnaise and parsley and mix well. The parsley is primarily for color; I use fresh if I have it on hand, a sprinkling of dried will do in a pinch.
http://ciaofromdebbie.com/recipes/main-dishes/the-main-course-for-our-italian-easter-feast-2012/

Grated Carrot Salad can be found on page 69 of O Taste & See Some More!

One Comment

  1. 3-14-2012

    Debbie, you did it again. You made my mouth water. Every Easter I make a leg of lamb with almost the same marinade. But we use oregano, basil, parsley and lots of garlic instead of the rosemary. So I guess it really isn’t the same recipe. I love lemon with the lamb and it makes the best gravy. I drill cloves of garlic into the leg of lamb as well.
    Since I only get lamb once a year I love to make a lot and have left overs. A lamb sandwich after Easter is wonderful.
    And you are right…..don’t over cook your lamb otherwise it will be dry and tough.

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