When I was an 18-year-old exchange student in Spain, I remember being in a family winery in Castilla y León, roasting whole lamb for Semana Santa, Holy Week. Castilla y León is the heart of lamb country in Spain, and no festival is complete without lamb roasted over hot coals. I enjoyed the familiar, thick, lanoline smell of it in the early spring air.
The day before, we had stopped at the butcher shop to pick up four whole suckling lambs and brined them overnight with olives, herbs and preserved lemons. Every time I have roast lamb, I think of that incredible Easter Sunday, my first of many memorable Easters in Spain.
- 1 cup good-quality black olives, pits removed
- 6 slices quick-cured lemons (see Video Extra! to learn how to prepare them) or purchased preserved lemons
- 4 cloves garlic, peeled and lightly crushed
- Generous handful of mixed fresh herbs, like rosemary, oregano, sage, parsley, and/or thyme
- ½ cup good olive oil
- 1 lamb shoulder, roughly 4 to 6 lbs., deboned
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
In a large mortar and pestle or in a food processor, work together the olives, cured lemons, garlic, herbs and olive oil to create a nice, rustic paste. If you’re using a food processor, be careful not to overprocess it; you want the paste a bit coarse.
Spread the deboned lamb shoulder flat on a cutting board. Use a sharp knife to open up any connecting meat and form a nice square. Rub the lamb all over with the paste, roll it up and truss it with butcher’s twine every inch and a half. Refrigerate the lamb for a few hours or overnight to allow all the flavors to come together.
Remove the lamb from the refrigerator and let it come to room temperature, about
45 minutes. Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F.
Season the lamb with salt and pepper and place it on a rack fitted in a roasting pan. Roast for one to 1.5 hours, until it reaches an internal temperature of about 148 degrees F. Baste the lamb every 20 minutes or so. Once the lamb is done, set it aside in a warm place to rest for 10 minutes before serving and slicing.
(Recipes reprinted with permission from Seamus Mullen’s Hero Food by Seamus Mullen/Andrews McMeel Publishing, LLC.)