Abbacchio - Baby Lamb, Pan-Roasted Roman Style
Here's the sad story of my baby lamb:
When we first got our list of recipes last spring, I looked ahead to see if I had anything that I better be looking ahead that might need seasonal ingredients. "Baby lamb. Hmmmmm, sounds like a spring thing", I thought.
I went to my monthly book club meeting, and asked, "Where do you think I can find a baby lamb?" Elizabeth said, "My son-in-law, from Italy, has an organic farm restaurant in Redlands, (about an hour away) and he has great farm sources. I will ask him to email you."
Then next day, I got a lovely email from Roberto Argentina, founder/executive chef at Farm Artisan Foods. He was born in Brindisi, Italy, and grew up on a farm that had been in his family for generations. He attended university in the U.S. and in 1988 moved to the west coast. He lived in a school bus in Venice, CA while working under chef Joachim Splichal at Patina in Los Angeles.
Roberto assured me he had just gotten a three week old baby lamb, and it was in his freezer. I told him what I needed (shoulder with some loin attached), and he said he would keep it for me when he butchered the lamb. There was no rush to pick it up. I told him I wouldn't actually be cooking the lamb until much later. I thought, "He has more freezer space than I do!" I felt I had scored a major coup.
About a month later, as I was cooking ahead the recipes that would be posted during my weeks in Bologna, I thought I would pick up the lamb, as we would be driving through Redlands. I emailed and made arrangement to pick up the lamb on the following weekend.
On Friday, I got a big apology email from Roberto. He was out of town for 3 days. When he came back, he found that his assistant chef, had decided to feature the baby lamb as a special on the menu, and they sold it ALL! No more baby lamb!
Alas, I got the best lamb I could from Bristol Farms: loin and shoulder.
When Jerry and I were in Rome in June, I ordered "Abbacchio" for dinner one night.
It tasted like grilled lamb. NOW let me tell you about Marcella's Abbacchio!
The recipe is fun to make. You use either lard, olive oil, butter and vegetable oil, or all vegetable oil for the cooking fat, browning the 3" pieces of lamb. Salt, pepper, chopped garlic, rosemary, and sage are added. A tablespoon of flour is sifted over the meat and tossed. Then you add wine vinegar and water and let it all simmer until tender. (about an hour)
When the lamb is almost done, you make an anchovy sauce with some of the pan juices, water and chopped anchovies, smashed in a double boiler. This is stirred into the lamb the last 2 minutes of cooking.
This is the most flavorful lamb I've ever had! I LITERALLY licked the serving utensils, and wanted to lick the platter and pot! What a treat!
AMAZING! I will definitely be adding this to my favorites! It was wonderful with some pumpkin polenta.
Happy Thanksgiving to Marcella, Victor, and all the Pomodori!