Luscious Leftovers?

I love to cook for friends and family; it is our livelihood and our passion.  In fact I love everything about cooking, from the selection of ingredients to the prepping and creating of something visually beautiful and satisfying to the palette.  I hate leftovers.  That is I hated them until I came to the farm.  Maybe it’s because the food is fresher to begin with, or maybe I am more frugal by necessity.  I think it’s because I stopped copping an attitude about it.

We had planned Easter dinner to serve five.  Val and I, our neighbor Lynne, her friend Jelania, and Val’s brother Gary.  My family’s typical form is to let me know at the last-minute, which they did, and have decided to come, so three more were added, my brother Bill and my two nephews Ian and Jake.  What is it about families?  My siblings and I are not anything like each other; each of us thinking they were the one left under the cabbage leaf.  We do try our best to understand one another, even though at times it’s a real stretch.  We have learned to stay away from politics and religion, so there are deep discussions about the weather.  But I digress.

The center piece of our Easter dinner was a bone-in leg of lamb.  It is coated with a paste of roasted garlic, mustard, olive oil, herbs and fresh bread crumbs.  It is tradition on Easter and also makes an appearance during the Christmas holidays.  With side dishes of Warm Cannellini Bean Salad, Swiss Chard Casserole, fresh Ciabatta bread and Pecan Pie, it is a most savory meal.

Garlic and Mustard Crusted Leg of Lamb

  • 4 whole garlic heads, roasted (recipe follows)
  • 3 Tbsp Dijon mustard
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 Tbsp fresh chives, chopped
  • 1 Tbsp fresh thyme leaves, chopped
  • 1 Tbsp fresh rosemary, chopped
  • 1 6-8 lb bone-in leg of lamb
  • 12 fresh garlic slices
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 2 cups fresh breadcrumbs (we use our Ciabatta)

To roast garlic:

  • 4 heads garlic
  • 1/4 cup good quality olive oil
  • Kosher salt to taste
  • 3 Tbsp water
  • 2 tsp white wine vinegar
  • Sprig of fresh thyme
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  With a very sharp knife, cut the tips off the top of each bulb (about 1/2 inch).  Remove the loosest papery layers, but do not separate cloves.  Pour the water in a glass baking dish.  Place the bulbs in the center.  Pour the olive oil over the top of each bulb and sprinkle with salt.  Sprinkle with vinegar.
  2. Cover the dish with foil (dull side up) and roast for 40 minutes.  Test by carefully inserting a thin sharp knife into one of the cloves.  It should be soft.  Let cool.
  3. Squeeze garlic heads to extract pulp.  Discard skin.  Place garlic pulp, mustard and oil in a food processor, process until smooth.  Stir in chives, thyme and rosemary leaves.
  4. Increase oven temperature to 425 degrees.
  5. Trim fat from lamb.  Cut 12 slits in lamb, place a fresh garlic slice in each slit.
  6. Spread the garlic paste mixture over surface of lamb.  Place lamb on rack in roasting pan.  Bake at 425 for 10 minutes.  Decrease temperature to 325 degrees.  Bake an additional 1 1/2 to 2 hours or until instant-read thermometer registers 130 degrees for medium-rare.  Let meat rest for 20 minutes before carving.

With all of us gathered at the table, it is always good food that brings us together.  It is a universal language and common ground.  We try to send everyone home with something.  Gary got the extra loaf of Ciabatta.  Ian and Jake took home the second pecan pie.  Bill replenished his stock of Oatmeal, Milk and Honey soap.

After everyone left, Val and I were clearing up and doing dishes, when we noticed that there was still a moderate amount of meat left on the leg of lamb.  We both new immediately it would be transformed into lamb stew tomorrow.  There was a time that I would have found this anything but exciting, but I remember the first time Val made lamb stew for me.  I was still working in the city and had experienced a particularly disheartening day.  When Val called on my cell to ask what sounded good for dinner, I had replied, “I not really hungry.”  I tried my best to decompress on the one hour drive home.  I pulled into the garage and climbed the stairs to the main part of the house, when I was struck by the scent of something so savory, so luscious, that my appetite was rekindled on the spot.  It was this lamb stew:

Left-over Lamb Stew

  • Any remaining meat from roasted leg of lamb, in bite-size pieces.  Include any breading and the bone itself separated at joint
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 cup onion, chopped coarsely
  • 2 cups carrots, chopped coarsely
  • 2 cups red-skinned potatoes, chopped coarsely
  • 2 cups chicken stock or broth
  • 2 tsp fresh thyme, finely chopped
  • 1/4 cup fresh parsley, finely chopped
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  1. In large Dutch oven or saucepan, saute onion and carrots for 5 minutes on medium-high heat.  Add potatoes, chicken stock or broth, lamb bone, any remaining breading and fresh thyme.
  2. Lower heat to medium and simmer until carrots and potatoes are cooked through.
  3. Lower heat to medium-low and add cut up meat.  Heat only to warm meat through.  Add fresh parsley.  Ladle into bowls.

I am not embarrassed to say I enjoyed this every bit as much as Easter dinner.  The bread from the lamb’s crust thickened up the sauce nicely, the meat was fork tender and it was savory and down right luscious.  Who would have thought.

‘There is no love sincerer than the love of food.’

–George Bernard Shaw

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