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Roast Easter Lamb with White Wine
From Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking, by Marcella Hazan

Note: In Italy, to eat lamb is to welcome the end of winter and hail the coming of spring, to celebrate renewal, to connect one's feelings with the Easter spirit of rebirth. For the Italian soul, as well as for the Italian palate, no other meat possesses the tenderness of roasted young lamb.

The recipe that follows is the simple and fragrant way that in Emilia-Romagna we do the first lamb of the season, at Easter. It works well with any lamb, but it is most successful with a very young, small one.

Ingredients:

2 to 2-1/2 pounds spring lamb, preferably the shoulder
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 tablespoon butter
3 whole garlic cloves, peeled
A sprig of fresh rosemary, cut into 2 or 3 pieces, OR 1/2 teaspoon dried rosemary leaves
Salt
Black pepper, ground fresh from the mill
2/3 cup dry white wine

Instructions:

1. You'll be needing a heavy-bottomed or enameled cast-iron pot in which to roast the meat. If you don't have one that can accommodate the piece of meat whole, divide the lamb into 2 or 3 pieces. Wash it in cold running water and pat thoroughly dry with cloth or paper towels.

2. Put the oil and butter in the pot, turn the heat on to medium high, and when the butter foam begins to subside, put in the lamb, the garlic, and the rosemary. Brown the meat deeply all over, particularly the skin side. Check the garlic: If you find it is becoming very dark, remove it from the bottom of the pan and place it on top of the lamb.

3. Add salt, pepper, and the wine. Let the wine simmer briskly for about 15 or 20 seconds, turning the meat once or twice, then adjust heat to cook at a very gentle simmer and cover the pot, setting the lid on slightly ajar. Cook for about 1-1/2 to 2 hours, until the lamb is cooked all the way through and begins to come off the bone. Turn the meat from time to time while it is cooking and, if the liquid in the pot has become insufficient, replenish it as often as needed with 2 or 3 tablespoons of water.

4. When done, transfer the lamb to a warm serving platter. Tip the pan to spoon off all but a small amount of fat. Add 2 tablespoons of water, raise the heat to high, and while the water boils away use a wooden spoon to scrape loose cooking residues from the bottom and sides. Pour the pot juices over the lamb and serve at once.

Yield: For 4 servings

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