Recipe of the week
Lamb with olives and raisins: A showpiece from Lombardy
The dish below is “a true centerpiece—a mic drop,” said Alon Shaya in Shaya: An Odyssey of Food, My Journey Back to Israel (Knopf). It’s based on an Easter roast that was the highlight of the very best meal I had during a working tour of northern Italy that I once made. When I make the roast today, “a contented silence always falls over the table when everyone starts eating, as if they’re all paying respect to the lamb.”
The lamb is braised with olives, raisins, and red wine, and the resulting gravy is wonderful with a good crusty bread, or “melds perfectly” with polenta. I ladle the warm polenta into a serving dish over a half pound of Taleggio cheese—another trick I learned that Easter, when the marriage of the polenta, pan juices, and cheese left me “beside myself with happiness.”
Slow-roasted lamb shoulder
1 bone-in lamb shoulder, 5 to 8 lbs
Morton kosher salt
6 cloves garlic
2 to 3 sprigs fresh rosemary
2 yellow onions
3 stalks celery
2 large carrots, peeled
3 tbsp tomato paste
¾ cup red wine
1 cup Castelvetrano olives, pitted and halved
1 cup golden raisins
3 cups chicken stock
2 dried bay leaves
1 cinnamon stick
½ tsp red-pepper flakes
Pat lamb dry. Rub 2 tbsp salt all over it. Turn fatty side up and cut 6 slits in top to serve as little pockets. Tuck a clove of garlic and piece of rosemary in each. Wrap shoulder in plastic and refrigerate overnight.
Heat oven to 400. Coarsely chop onions, celery, and carrots and scatter on bottom of roasting pan. Pour in ½ cup water. Set rack inside. Add lamb, fatty side up. Roast until fragrant and beginning to brown, 50 to 60 minutes, rotating once.
Pull out rack with lamb; set aside on a rimmed baking sheet. Stir tomato paste into vegetables. Roast sauce 8 to 10 minutes. Pour in wine; roast another 6 to 8 minutes to reduce liquid by half.
Cut off tops and bottoms of oranges. Halve them horizontally. Add to roasting pan with olives, raisins, stock, bay leaves, cinnamon stick, pepper flakes, and 1 tsp kosher salt.
Return rack with lamb to pan. Press a parchment sheet over meat, tucking edges underneath. Wrap entire pan tightly in overlapping sheets of foil.
Reduce oven heat to 300. Roast lamb 5 to 6 hours, until fork tender (start checking under wrappings after 5 hours; re-cover and check again every 30 minutes).
Move lamb to a cutting board to rest and remove and discard rosemary and garlic. Fish cinnamon stick and bay leaves out of pan juices and skim away fat with a ladle. Carve the lamb and serve it with sauce ladled from a tureen. Serves 8 to 10.