Eating fresh and local: get your Easter lamb at the Farmers Market

Fresh vegetable, herb and flower sets at the Santa Fe Farmers Market, photo Steve Collins

What’s on the menu for your special Easter celebration? How can you prepare it using fresh and local ingredients? In Santa Fe that’s easy. A visit to the Santa Fe Farmers Market will yield the fixings for a memorable Easter dinner. If you want a traditional lamb dinner, stop at Shepherd’s Lamb’s booth. The farm, located in northern Rio Arriba County will be at the market on Saturday, April 23rd to sell you your Easter dinner but won’t be back again until early June. They’ll be busy birthing this year’s lambs. Don’t worry, if you need fresh lamb and miss them at the Market, La Montanita Food Co-op sells the farm’s lamb. There’s lots of fresh arugula, chard and tender braising greens at the Farmers Market now as well as fresh goat cheese from both Old Windmill Dairy and South Mountain Dairy.

For something a little different, try this smoked boneless butterflied leg of lamb stuffed with lamb sausage, goat cheese, pecans and arugula. You don’t need a special smoker rig for this. Any grill with a lid will do the job. To smoke in a charcoal grill: build a good fire on both sides of the cooking space and set a pan of water between the two fires. The prepared lamb roast (instructions below) goes over the water pan. Add soaked pecan, hickory or apple wood chips to the coals. You will probably need to add more coals after about an hour. If you’re using a gas grill, make sure it has three sets of burners. Ignite the outside burners, put the water pan over the cold middle and proceed as with charcoal. Hardware stores have a small metal box that holds woodchips chips for gas grills. Soak the wood chips and put them in the metal box, which goes directly over the hottest part of the fire on one or both sides. A less expensive option; put the chips into an emptied tuna can and put that over the gas fire. If you want a little sauce for your Easter lamb, I’ve included a red wine reduction recipe.

Stiffed leg of lamb just off the smoker, photo Steve Collins

Arugula, Goat Cheese, Sausage and Pecan Stuffed Leg of Lamb

1 boneless leg of lamb (approximately 5 lbs.)
Olive oil
Salt and freshly ground pepper
8 pieces of butcher’s twine, each a foot long

½ pound ground lamb
1 TBS olive oil
¼ cup onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
½ cup pecans, toasted and coarsely chopped
1 tsp. ground cumin
2 TBS fresh mint, loosely chopped
½ cup fresh goat cheese
2 cups fresh arugula, coarsely chopped

For smoking:
Two cups of pecan, hickory or apple wood chips, soaked for 30 minutes

Prepare a hot fire on both side of the grill or heat the outside burners on a gas grill.

Put the lamb on your work surface, fat side down. Remove excess fat and gristle. Pound to a relatively uniform thickness (about half an inch) and don’t be afraid to be vigorous with the pounder. Rub the lamb with a little olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Refrigerate until ready to stuff.

To make the stuffing, put the ground lamb in a sauté pan over medium heat and brown. Remove it from the pan and set aside. Pour off all but a tablespoon of the pan drippings. Add a tablespoon of olive oil, the onions and garlic and cook until soft (about five minutes). Add the pecans, cumin and fresh mint. Transfer this mixture to a bowl and let cool. Stir in the goat cheese and arugula and blend well. Spread the lengths of twine every few inches on your work surface. Open out the lamb, fat side down over the lengths of twine. Spread the stuffing evenly over the lamb and then roll the lamb into a cylinder. Tie it securely with the butcher’s twine. Brush the outside of the lamb roll with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Put a metal pan between the two fires and fill with water. Put the roast on the cooking grate directly over the pan of water and cook until the lamb is cooked to the degree of doneness you like.  If you like your meat for well done, 160°, allow about an hour and a half, less for rare 135°. (Many believe that it’s risky to eat meat that is not cooked to 160°.)  If you’re using charcoal you may need to add more coals after an hour. Remove the roast from the grill and let rest for 15 minutes. Cut the strings, slice the meat and serve.

Red Wine Reduction
½ cup shallot, finely chopped
1 cup red wine
3 TBS chilled butter, coarsely diced

Put shallots and red wine in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook until volume is reduced to one third. Whisk in butter and serve immediately.

Happy Easter!


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