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Easter Lamb from Sicily
Makes 8 servings
If lamb is the quintessential Easter food, then this is the dish to celebrate the holiday with. The tastes of spring sing from the creamy lemon sauce enfolding the meat. When I ate this at Regaleali, a great Sicilian wine estate in the interior of the island, I wanted to fly into the kitchen immediately and learn its secrets. I restrained myself long enough to eat an extraordinary dinner and drink wonderful wines, and then Mario LoMenzo. the family cook, gave me the recipe and showed me how he had made the dish.
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion, minced
4 pounds ( l 3/4 kilograms) boneless lamb stewing meat, cut in large
2 3/4 cups meat broth or enough to cover the lamb thoroughly
6 egg yolks
Juice of 4 lemons
1 pint heavy cream
1 1/2 to 2 tablespoons potato starch for every 2 cups liquid
Salt and pepper
In a large casserole warm the oil and sauté the onion until it is translucent. Add the lamb pieces and cover with broth. Cook over medium-low heat until the lamb is tender, 35 to 45 minutes. Remove the lamb from the broth and keep it warm. Degrease the broth. (The recipe may be done ahead to this point; you may want to chill the broth and remove the fat when it has solidified. You can reheat the lamb in a 350º oven for 30 minutes. )
Warm the broth. Off the fire whisk in the egg yolks and lemon juice and mix well. Over a very low flame whisk in the cream bit by bit. Tum the fire up to medium and slowly stir in the potato starch, whisking it well to prevent lumps from forming. As the sauce thickens, add the lamb, season with salt and pepper, and serve immediately.
Genovese Christmas Sweet Bred from Genoa
Makes 2 loaves
Every city has its own Christmas bread: Milan has panettone; Verona, pandoro; and Genoa, pandolce, literally sweet bread. In its rustic form pandolce is a low, dense bread, thick with raisins, candied fruits, pistachios, and pine nuts, without any of the softness or light, airy quality of its Milanese or Veronese relatives. Perhaps that explains its current unfashionable status and makes sense of why there are two kinds of pandolce, the old-fashioned countrified round and a lighter, softer sweet bread more pleasing to contemporary tastes. When this pandolce arrives at the Christmas table surrounded by bay leaves, its low, round form is a reminder of its medieval origins, for it is scented with such Near Eastern flavors as orange flower water and fennel seeds. If you want to be really traditional, allow the youngest member of the family to cut the first slice, wrap it in a napkin, and offer it to the first poor person who passes. It is wonderful with a sweet white wine.
4 teaspoons active dry yeast or scant 1 2/3 cakes (30 grams) fresh yeast
1 cup plus 6 tablespoons warm water
2 1/2 cups plus 2 tablespoons (355 grams) unbleached all-purpose flour
Stir the yeast into the warm water and let stand until it is creamy, about10 minutes. Mix in the flour, cover with plastic wrap, and let rise untilwell doubled, about 40 minutes.
1/2 cup plus 3 tablespoons (150 grams) unsalted butter, very soft
3/4 cup ( 150 grams) sugar
W cup plus 2 tablespoons Marsala
2 tablespoons milk
1 tablespoon orange flower water
1 teaspoon orange extract
3 tablespoons fennel seeds
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 3/4 cups (250 grams) unbleached all-purpose flour
By Mixer. Put the sponge in the mixer bowl and with the paddle attachment mix in the soft butter in chunks until it is smooth and well mixed. Add the sugar, Marsala, milk, orange flower water, extract, fennel seeds, and salt; mix slowly until smooth, 3 to 4 minutes. Change to the dough hook, add the flour, and mix on the lowest speed until the dough is smooth and elastic, about 3 minutes. The dough will be soft and sticky.
Turn it out onto a well-floured board and knead briefly. Don't worry if it is too soft and sticky to form a ball.
First Rise. Set the dough in an oiled container, cover it well, and let rise until doubled, about 31/4 hours.
Filling3 tablespoons (30 grams) pine nuts
3 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon (40 grams) pistachios
1/2 cup (75 grams) raisins, soaked in tepid water for 1 hour, drained, and squeezed dry
2/3 cup (100 grams) candied orange peel, chopped
Shaping and Second Rise. Pour the delicate, very soft dough out onto a well-floured board. Flatten it into a long rectangular shape and, leaving a 1-inch border all around, sprinkle the top with the pine nuts, pistachios, raisins, and candied orange peel. Pat them in well. Fold in the borders all around and pat well again before rolling the dough up into a ball. Cut the dough in half and make a ball of each piece. Set the dough to rise on parchment paper-lined baking sheets, cover with a towel, and let rise until doubled, about 11/2 hours.
Baking. Preheat the oven to 400 F. Just before baking, use a razor blade to cut the shape of a cross or a triangle in the center of each loaf. Set in the oven and bake 45 to 50 minutes