Christmas it's a special occasion!
Enzo Sisto 15 december 2021
Cooking lamb for Christmas is a deeply felt tradition in Italy as well as in other European countries.
Here are 2 traditional French and Spanish recipes perfect for this special occasion.
Burgos is the most important and culture-rich city of Castilla y Leon and was the capital of Spain before Madrid.
For example, the Cathedral of Burgos is one of the most beautiful in Spain dedicated to Mary. Construction of the cathedral began in 1221 at the behest of Ferdinand III of Castile.
The funerary monument of El Cid Campeador, Burgos' most famous son is located under the domed vault. With the move of the Spanish court to Madrid in 1561, Burgos effectively lost its status as the capital of Spain.
In 1495, Kings Ferdinand and Isabella received Cristobal Columbus, the Genoese explorer who discovered America in the Casa del Cordon of Burgos after his second voyage of discovery.
Interesting that the name America come from Amerigo Vespucci, another Italian born in Florence, because he understood that it was a new continent, “Mundus Novus” in one of his letters. The European proposal, to give the new continent his name, was generally accepted early sixteenth century. We find for the first time on a map by Mercator, published in 1538, Terra Americi or America as the name for the entire continent.
Burgos is also still the Spanish capital of lamb meat. One of the top 10 "asador" (roastery) of Spain, Casa Azofra, is located in Burgos. Alberto, his owner, has been making one of the best "Cordero Asado" in Spain for decades. Have a look on: www.hotelazofra.com
Cordero asado is a popular Castilian dish made by roasting a whole lamb over an open fire, of course it is possible to cook it in the oven and get the same result (or almost).
The lamb is usually marinated with lemon, garlic, and various fresh herbs such as rosemary and thyme. Once it is properly cooked, Cordero Asado is typically accompanied by roasted potatoes and onions on the side.
The dish is especially popular during the Christmas season. To obtain a tasty roast lamb, cooking it slowly during 3 hours, so the meat will be tender inside and crisper outside.
- 2 Kg lamb shoulder
- 80 ml Olive Oil
- 3 heads garlic, separated into cloves and peeled
- Fresh rosemary leaves
- Salt and black pepper
- 2 cups dry white wine
- 2 Kg small potatoes
First of all turning on the oven.
- Rinse lamb under running water. Pat dry and rub lamb lightly with 2 tablespoons of the oil.
- Using a paring knife, make small incisions. Cut about half of the garlic into thick slices and slip into the incisions with about half of the rosemary.
- Next, putting the lamb in a large baking pan with water in the base and a tablespoon of salt and putting it in the oven.
- Cooking at 130 degrees upside and down for the first 45 minutes, then changing the side of the meat and cooking for another 45 minutes.
- At this point increasing the temperature to 160 degrees, pour wine over lamb and continue roasting (it is traditionally served well done) and cooking for 45 minutes.
- Finally cooking at 200 degrees for 15 minutes on both sides to make it crispy.
- Preparing baked potatoes, or a simple mixed salad, according to taste.
Le Gigot D'Agneau
(French Roast Leg of Lamb)
This traditional French Easter dish of roast leg of lamb with rosemary and garlic is an impressive main dish for any celebration and it is very well suited for the Christmas holidays.
Some information about the history: the earliest evidence of lamb breeding dates back to the Middle East, over 12,000 years ago. Present in several religions, the lamb is represented there as a gentle and docile aim. The leg owes its name to an ancient musical instrument, the jig, which has the same shape as it.
We have to go back to the sources of the Jewish and Catholic religions to understand why it is ritually eaten at Easter. In the Bible there are also advice on how to prepare the leg of lamb. In fact, Yahweh had also specified not to eat the lamb "half cooked and boiled" but to "roast it on the fire".
The Jews continue to commemorate the exodus by celebrating the Passover by sacrificing a lamb. The feast of Passover celebrates for eight days the liberation of the people of Israel and the crossing of the Red Sea. The sacrifice of the lamb takes its origin from an order from God to Moses, before crossing the Red Sea, to sacrifice one lamb per family. The blood of the lamb, sprinkled on the doors of the houses of the Hebrews with a branch of hyssop, made it possible to signal to the Angel of Death that these houses were to be spared from the death of the firstborn, which was to strike only Egyptians.
Jesus takes over the tradition of eating lambs during Easter and the lamb is for the Catholics an animal loaded with positive symbolism: peace, joy and purity …
French cooking might be known for being a bit complicated but the preparation for this roast leg of lamb is so incredibly simple.
The leg is studded with garlic cloves and fresh rosemary sprigs and roasted at a low temperature to achieve a tender, flavorful result.
How much lamb should I buy per person?
Like all meat, lamb will reduce in size as it cooks. Lamb typically reduces by slightly under a half. And, keep in mind that since our leg of lamb has a bone in, much of the raw weight is the bone.
What should I serve with leg of lamb?
Traditionally le Gigot d’Agneau is served with green beans and potatoes.
- A big heavy (2-3 kg) legs of lamb, bone in must be enough for 6/8 people
- 5-7 garlic cloves, cut into slivers
- 2 large fresh rosemary sprigs
- Salt and Pepper
- Olive oil
Should I cut the fat off a leg of lamb?
A good cut of lamb should have ribbons of fat throughout the meat. Since we’re roasting our leg of lamb low and slow, even having a fat cap on the leg of lamb is not a bad thing, since this fat will render out as the meat cooks, basting the meat and keeping it juicy. And, since we’re using a raised roasting pan to cook the meat, any excess fat will simply collect in the pan, not in/on your meat.
The Night Before
- The night before you want to roast your lamb, with a long sharp knife, make a long thin incision in the meat and insert the garlic and rosemary sprigs into the opening. The amount of garlic is up to you and based on your preferences. Place the lamb in a roasting pan with a roasting rack. Cover lightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight to infuse with flavor.
Roasting The Lamb
- Remove the lamb from the refrigerator 2-3 hours before you want to start cooking to let it come to room temperature.
- Set your oven to a high temperature (about 240° C and let it get really hot)
- Put the leg of lamb in a large oven dish and add some olive oil (not too much, lamb already has lots of natural fat) and generously sprinkle salt and pepper and, optionally, the “herbs de Provence” on every part of the roast. With the oil, all the salt, pepper and herbs will stick to the meat making a sort of crust.
- Roast the lamb for 15 minutes. Then lower the oven to about 200° C
- Cook your leg of lamb for about 12 to 15 minutes per pound (0,5kg) depending on if you want it pink or 18 minutes if you want it well done.
- Carve the leg and serve with green beans and gratin potatoes!
Please note that: each furnace has its wind speed, its thermostat calibration will be plus minus correct. Fat, maturation and other factors will influence the perfect result.
Therefore it is best to use a meat thermometer. Proteins in lamb meat do not react differently from those in beef.
So for a French style version (almost row in the middle) stop at a core temperature of 45° C. Due to the inertial heating, the temperature will rise by 3/5 Celsius.
For a medium roast (rosé in the middle) then stop at 52° C
Take advantage of these traditional receipts for special occasions and enjoy your meal!
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