Greek Easter Lamb Roast Part II
The next morning after preparing the lamb for roasting, we slept like babies. Well, honestly, we slept like babies with black-out shutters and no alarm clock. Gabriel's dad, Manuel got up at 7:00 and headed over all alone to Michelle and Bertrand's to start the fire. He used an approximately 5 foot by 3 foot metal tray in which to start the fire. Boy do I wish we'd had something like that for Paul's and Marcy's backyards. They each have hosted lamb roasts in Minnesota and we had to dig out lawn and flowers to do it. Ugh! So alone, Manuel started the fire (made this year with logs and real-wood charcoal) and staked the spit's 2 vertical parts about 2 feet away from it. That's how you start out. If you want everything to cook on the inside without burning the outside, you need a lot of indirect heat. He turned and he turned and he turned some more. Bertrand might have been home to help for some of this but I think he went to church. Finally at 10:00 we strolled in. (What's the first person plural for mea culpa?) By then the fire tray was about a foot away from the turning lamb. So we started turning. Gabriel periodically added new wood and charcoal to keep the fire burning evenly. Then other people came. I gave up the spit handle to Blaise who was happy to take over. There is not much process involved in the cooking; the most important thing to do as the host of a lamb roast is to provide refreshments to a long list of spit turners. Oh and kids; kids dig this unless they're freaked out by it. They love turning but usually can't do it all that long. Make sure lots of people come early otherwise you'll end up doing a LOT of turning yourself. The nice thing is that Sunday was lunch for 26, so there were plenty og turners. In the am, we got espresso and colomba slices (Easter's answer to Panettone) then in the pm we graduated to small glasses of white wine and - wait for it - entrails! Yep. Rita prepared a pretty delicious mezze dish of chicken livers, kidneys and gizzards in a very Greek oregano/lemon/olive oil sauce. We all gobbled them, even the kids (well, I had my 1 relatively unadventurous liver). And that's what fueled the turning.
At about 11:30 the fire tray was only inches away from the lamb and by 12:00 it was directly under it. The process goes something like this: (Manuel, correct me if this is wrong, ok?) You begin with the lamb about 2 feet away from the fire and after the first two hours, you move it one foot closer. An hour and a half later, you move it to about a six-inch distance. You keep it there for about another hour and a half when you move it on top of the fire and cook for the last hour that way. If you have a fire built on the ground, sedentary, you can rather easily move the spit's two vertical stakes. About every half hour or so you'll want to baste the lamb. Music to baste lamb by: Rembetica. This Greek by way of Smyrna musical form has been compared to the blues but that is true only for the lyrics which reflect the hard times of a displaced underclass. The melodies are wild. A great way to do this is not to use a big, barbecue basting brush but to cut a lemon in half, strip away 1 centimeter of rind and stick a big barbecue fork into the side of the lemon (see photo). Now you can dip the lemon into a small bowl of olive oil, pepper and oregano and rub it along the lamb.
Now get a load of the poor, suffering tulips in this photo. I don't know if Michelle, resident gardener will ever forgive us for sauna-ing them to death. Finally at 1:30 pm the lamb was done and it was time to eat. Everybody except the butchers went inside where they all selected hard-boiled, decorated Easter eggs and proceeded to have an egg-smashing competition. Wish I'd have gotten some of those photos! It's fun. You hold your egg, pointy end out and ram it into your neighbor's egg who's doing the same as you. The person whose egg doesn't crack wins. The winner proceeds to the next person down the line until an Easter Egg Champion is established. I don't know what they win, the honor and respect of everyone else or maybe the right not to have to eat the egg. (Sorry, I'm not a fan). Easter eggs drizzled with walnut oil with a green salad is the first course, then comes the lamb. The skin is crispy, the meat is tender and well seasoned (remember the poking and the garlic from yesterday?) So two people take the beast over to a large table totally covered in plastic and remove all those bits of wire (remember yesterday?) then with sharp knives, bone-cutting kitchen scissors and one big hatchet, they get to work. During the Easter egg competition, the lamb has been cut into serving pieces, put on large trays and expedited into the dining room. Now, you would not BELIEVE this dining room. I said that there were 26 people for Easter lunch and we ALL fit into one long long long banquet table. Ok, it was probably three tables connected but still... The lamb came accompanied by lovely brown oven-roasted potatoes with whole coriander seeds, made by Jacqueline; a nice touch and very original. For dessert we had a vanilla panna cotta with berry coulis prepared by Samuel and a chocolate/amaretto semi-freddo made by Diane from Florence. (see photos in the next post) Whew! They were delicious. And so ended a scrumptious and well-deserved meal. Can't wait 'til next year!