Lamb sandwiches for lunch today. I’m slicing and toasting ciabatte rolls from Trader Joes and laying thin sheets of sliced lamb roast over them. Die and go to heaven.
And I have these two people to thank: Sebastiano Pazzini and Lisa Canducci Bailey. The explanation:
Fifteen years ago I stayed two weeks at a country house called Agriturismo Duslaun in Verucchio, Italy. Verucchio is a fifteen minute drive from San Marino, where we always stay in the Canducci family apartment in Serravalle. This visit was different. The apartment bathroom was a cloud of dust from busted floor and walls for a plumbing job, which meant no running water. And I was by myself, staying six weeks to let floor-buster, tile and plumbing and carpentry workers in the apartment as the work progressed. I needed a place to stay. Somehow I found Duslaun.
And there I met Sebastiano Pazzini, owner, farmer, wine maker, chief cook, and raconteur. Nightly I joined him and his friends at the table, enjoying Romagnolo food and drink. Every night he brought out rabbit roast, which was perfection. There was a lesson. Every morning he prepared the rabbit roasts, five or six of them, and put them in the oven. Every afternoon he took them out of the oven and transferred them to the refrigerator. “I slice them cold,” he said, “then warm them up to serve.”
The lamb roast we’ll eat today comes from Costco. These roasts are about six pounds, they are boneless, they are reasonably priced at $6.99 a pound. Back home, I take them out of their netting and cut them in half. One half goes in the freezer for future delectation, the other is prepared for a long cook. I trim fat from the candidate for today’s roast. Lamb is fat. Lamb fat, unlike pork fat, is strong. So trim with extreme prejudice.
Then: salt and pepper, two garlic cloves diced on, over, and around the meat, fresh rosemary leaves generously laid on, over, and around the meat. Tie it up. I try to roll it and tie it so I have a chunk of meat the size of a small acorn squash or one of those toy mini-footballs.
Heat a roasting pan over low-medium heat and gently brown the meat in 2-3 tablespoons of olive oil. Try to brown as much of the exterior as you can, ten minutes total browning time. And gently. Gently. After browning, slice 2-3 onions into quarters (my onions this time were the size of eggs, I sliced three) and distribute the pieces in the pan. Add a quarter-to-third of a cup of white wine, depending the size of the roast. Sprinkle another handful of rosemary, dice another garlic clove, cover the pan and bring the roast to a low boil; five minutes, then into the oven.
Enter Lisa Canducci Bailey, our daughter chef and palate-dazzler. “I like 265, maybe 275,” she says of over temperature for many of the roasts she roasts. It’s a joke between us. I’m a 350 man myself. My mother, after all, was a 350 woman. I’m breaking that habit. She has showed me: there’s more to life than 350. At 275 you go long, 5-6 hours in the oven, turning the roast occasionally. You can leave the house, come back (the scent of the roast will intoxicate), roll the roast in its pan and juice, and return to what you were doing.
It will be done. As in cooked. It will still be wet. There will be a lot of sauce in the bottom of the pan. You need that.
Let the roast cool. Then put it, pan and all, in the fridge.
Thank you, Sebastiano, because when I slice the roast today, rather than crumbling the way it would sliced right out of the oven, the meat stays together and I get nice thin slices.
But there’s also . . . the pan. When you take the roast out of the pan, it’s pure horror show. The fat. It’s fat fat. That fat fat-fat is going to go in your mouth? Into your body? In your arteries? Well yes it is.
Obviously not for the faint of heart. But warm the sauce over low flame/heat. Cook it down a little in 30 minutes or so, then lay the slices in the pan, in the reduced fat-fat. Cover and cook low-low for 15-20 minutes. You’re bringing the meat back to life. It will be tender. Gently move the slices in the pan to expose them to the sauce if possible, trying not to break them.
The ciabatte. Sliced thin and toasted. Have a sandwich. You probably cooked more than you can eat, depending on how many you are. The lamb will be as good or better the next day. It’s just one of those things.