Monday, December 1, 2008


Clay-roasted lamb with roasted potatoes and tomatoes

By Vesna Vuynovich Kovach
In Brava Magazine
December 2008
Column: Around the Table

Related article: It's Greek to her

How does Greek-American Christmas dinner look at the Fatsis home? “We have turkey just like most everyone else, but there will also be roast lamb next to it,” says Beth. Americans tend to think Greek food “is all lamb,” she says, but really it’s “only for special occasions like Christmas or Easter. Spanakopita will be on the table, too, and sometimes moussaka or pastitsio (beef-pasta-tomato casserole. There’s usually a bottle of ouzo (licorice-flavored liquor) available for shots. Homemade bread, feta cheese, and a Greek salad are all staples. There’s a whole buffet of desserts, Greek and American both.”

This slow-roasted lamb dish comes from the island of Cyprus, and its name, “kleftiko,” “comes from the word kleftes, or robbers,” explains Beth. “Legend has it that Greek mountain-dwelling freedom fighters had to steal their food in order to survive. To avoid detection, they slow-cooked in underground ovens covered in clay. We use a commercial clay roaster, aluminum foil and an oven. It’s especially tasty because it seals the moisture inside the meat while giving it a crispy outside.”

If you don’t have a clay oven, says Beth, “a regular covered roasting pan would work. However, a little water – about 1/4" – needs to be put in the bottom of the pan. Add water as necessary if it evaporates.”

Clay-roasted lamb with roasted potatoes and tomatoes

2 pounds lamb meat (filets, leg, loin chops, shoulder or rack), divided in four pieces
juice of 1 lemon
1 tablespoon dried marjoram, finely chopped
1 tablespoon dried thyme, finely chopped
2 pounds small potatoes
1 scant cup olive oil
3 large tomatoes, sliced
3 bay leaves
freshly ground black pepper

Sprinkle the lamb with lemon juice. Mix marjoram, thyme, salt and pepper together and sprinkle over meat. Brush oil over four large pieces of aluminum foil. Lay a piece of lamb in the center of each and wrap. Place the four wrapped lamb pieces in a clay roaster, following manufacturer’s directions for pre-soaking the pot. Cover and bake at 300ยบ F for three hours.

Meanwhile, peel and wash the potatoes. Make a few cuts in each. Place in a separate roasting pan and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Pour olive oil over them and dot with butter. Place sliced tomato on top of potatoes. Add a little salt and pepper and the bay leaves. About an hour before lamb is ready, put potatoes in oven and roast until golden brown. Serve lamb and potatoes together on a platter.

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