This authentic dish of roasted lamb and potatoes is deeply rooted in tradition for many Italians. Growing up, every Easter Sunday and Christmas Day celebration featured a platter of lamb glistening with its caramelized juices and surrounded by perfectly roasted golden potatoes. Simple in its preparation, the tastes are surprisingly rich and flavourful, a true testament to the value of simple and quality ingredients. My father, a master of this recipe, insisted on young lamb, weighing no more than 25 pounds to ensure exceptional flavour (no gaminess), texture, and colour. The younger the lamb, the more tender and succulent it will be. Do not purchase lamb blindly. Speak to the butcher and ask for young lamb, specifying the maximum weight. Your butcher will be able to assist you. Once the order comes in, ask your butcher to cut it in pieces about 3”X3”. Be sure to communicate with your butcher early enough to allow for ordering.
Clean each piece of lamb by removing any ink stamps on the carcass, excess fat, tendons, silver skin.
Place the pieces of lamb in a bowl that is large enough to submerge all the pieces with water. Cover and refrigerate overnight.
Preheat oven to 350F. Rinse and drain the lamb. Salt each piece generously. (No need to dry the meat before salting).
In a large roasting pan, add enough oil to cover the bottom of the pan. Add garlic, oregano, and black pepper. Place pan on medium-high heat on the stove. When the oil has heated, add each piece of lamb. It is important that the pieces fit snuggly in one layer. Let sear for a few minutes on both sides. (It is not necessary to form a crust on the meat.)
Remove the roasting pot from the heat and pour wine over the meat.
Cover with lid and place in centre of oven. Roast for 4 to 41/2 hours, turning each piece every hour. During this time, the meat will exude water. In the last hour, the water will have almost completely evaporated, allowing the meat juices to caramelize. If the liquid evaporates too quickly, add a little more water. If there is still a considerable amount of water in the last hour, remove the lid so that it can evaporate more quickly. The meat is done when it is glistening, golden, succulent, and fork tender.
For the potatoes:
About 2 hours before the meat is done, wash, peel, and slice potatoes in large pieces. Place in a large bowl of water. Set aside.
About an hour before the meat is done, rinse and drain potatoes. Dry well using a clean tea towel. Set aside.
In a large nonstick fry pan, pour enough oil to generously cover the bottom of the pan. Place on medium-high heat on stove to heat the oil. Carefully place the potato chunks in one layer in the pan. Fry gently, carefully turning each potato chunk every 10 minutes, to ensure that each side becomes golden. It is important to fry slowly to ensure that the inside of the potato cooks properly and thoroughly, about 50 minutes. Adjust seasonings. (If potatoes brown too quickly, reduce heat. If the potatoes are not turning colour, increase heat.) Once cooked, do not let the potatoes sit in the oil to prevent absorption.
Timing is important. Carefully lift each piece of lamb from the pan and place in the centre of a large platter. Lift the potatoes from the oil and place around the patter with the meat in the centre.
Traditionally, this dish is served family-style, allowing each person to select their own favourite piece and potatoes.