By Joshua Lewin, Executive Chef, Beacon Hill Bistro We love Lamb at the restaurant, all year long, but especially in the spring. Our favorites come from T and Elen, formerly of Round the Bend Farm but now at their very own Brooks Cloud Farm in Maine. Every day, if the phone rings, I'll hope it's T and dream up lamb. Usually it's not, but when it is...we make something like this.
We started serving lamb bellies prepared this way at the restaurant last year. It’s very easy to put together and it’s a fairly quick braise so it can be ready for dinner service the same day the lamb is cut.
This is a great early spring dish, and though it’s maybe not quite warm enough to eat outside yet, you’ll want to anyway. This is exactly what you’d want to serve at a cool, but inviting, not-quite-summer roof top picnic.
Braising time is approximate, depending on size of the lamb belly. Herbs are interchangeable for your favorites, vegetable accompaniments should be adjusted for the season. The bite of the sorrel and ramps here is reminiscent of the traditional mint, but with a twist: thoughtful, and satisfying. A little celery (just the leaves) and parsley, carefully picked, but simply added as a final thought, keeps things fresh.
Ingredients 3 pounds lamb belly Kosher salt Fresh ground black pepper 2 large cloves garlic 1 bunch sorrel Olive oil or lamb fat, for searing 1 cup mirepoix (diced carrots, onion, and celery) 1 cup meat stock or broth 1 sprig rosemary 3 sprigs thyme 1 bay leaf 1/2 pound fresh ramps, root end trimmed, dark green tops removed and reserved 1 handful of your favorite olives, pitted 1/4 cup picked parsley or celery leaves, or a combination of both
Preparation About an hour before you are ready to begin, place lamb on counter and season liberally on both sides with salt and pepper.
Preheat oven to 325° F.
Meanwhile, make a paste out of the garlic by sprinkling with salt then crushing with the flat side of your knife, or in a mortar and pestle.
With the lamb resting skin side down, spread the garlic paste evenly to coat the entire surface. Lie fresh sorrel leaves over this, again to completely cover. Wrap belly firmly, lengthwise, then tie securely with kitchen twine.
In a heavy pan, with oil or lamb fat sear the outside of the rolls evenly, all the way around. Then place in a baking dish with a tight fitting lid. Add mirepoix, stock, herbs and a few whole peppercorns to the dish. Lamb should be covered about halfway with liquid. Braise for 2 1/2 hours or until fork tender.
While lamb is cooking, toss ramp bulbs in olive oil, salt, and pepper and char until tender over a hot grill or in a cast iron pan. Reserve and keep warm until ready to serve.
In a food processor or blender, process the ramp tops with a bit of salt and olive oil until you achieve a thick sauce-like consistency, then strain. For a milder flavor and a smoother consistency, blanch in salted boiling water before blending. For a little bite and rustic appearance, leave raw. If you have any sorrel left over, use this as well. But make sure to use it all up, as it will turn brown by the next morning.
When lamb is finished cooking, remove from baking dish. Carve into 2 or 3 pieces and enjoy with your ramps, prepared two ways, filling the kitchen with thoughts of spring. The briny olives reminding you, again, that it is just March, and the fresh leaves again, reaching for a longer day. Enjoy the view, and the company.