They are not only filled with incredible recipes but they are also a history lesson, Italian cooking has never been so interesting or well researched (sorry Mario Batali). Even if you don't cook just reading her prose is fascinating and educational. Frank bought "The Splendid Table" as a birthday present for me years ago and I actually carried it on the train reading it as it were a novel; no easy task considering the size and weight but well worth it...for me anyway. My lasagna has never been the same. I always made my mother's lasagna which was very good, which she made from the back of the Mueller's lasagna box except that she added an egg to her cottage cheese because Mr. Boccara, the old Italian (real Italian) guy down the block told her was a must. I changed the cottage cheese to ricotta and always used freshly grated Parmesan and chopped up a hunk of mozzarella, this was more "authentic" in my mind. Then came Lynne's lasagna and I will never go back. First of all since Frank also gave me a pasta machine, the hand crank type, I started making my own pasta and that is nothing like what you would find inside the Mueller's box (sorry Mueller's). It is so light and delicate one can almost see right through it. Then there are her ragus, pick what you like since they are all absolutely sublime taking hours to cook and with very little tomato, just enough. There is nowhere near as much cheese and then of course there's the bechamel...all this makes for a light and delicate lasagna which just melts in your mouth, and well...I could go on and on and on. Which brings me to why I'm writing about this goddess of cooking. It's Saturday and we're wondering what to have for dinner and come up with a boneless leg of lamb in the freezer. So what to do, I really don't want to make another tagine which is what I usually make since we love it so but we had it only about a month ago...roasting is ok but I'm not in the mood and besides I prefer a bone in for that. I start to look through magazines and books, nothing strikes me; then I pick up "The Italian Country Table" and there are dishes galore! Why didn't I just start here in the first place? What am I thinking? So we chose a concoction titled "Ninth-Night Lamb" with an explanation for the title almost as much fun as the dish itself. I have plagiarized the recipe:
From The Italian Country Table, by Lynne Rossetto Kasper
Serves 3 to 4.
Plan on only a salad with the lamb
- 1/3 tightly-packed cup Italian parsley leaves
- 6 large cloves garlic
- 4 large canned plum tomatoes, drained
- 3 generous tablespoons freshly-grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
- 3 1/2 pounds bone-in lamb blade (shoulder) roast or chops, trimmed of all fat, boned, and cut into 1-inch chunks , or 1 1/2 pounds boned and defatted leg of lamb meat, cut into 1 inch chunks
- About 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 8 to 10 (1 pound) small Yellow Finn, red skin, or Yukon gold potatoes, peeled and sliced into 1/16 to 1/8 inch thick rounds
- About 1/3 cup water
- 1 tightly-packed tablespoon Italian parsley, coarsely chopped
2. Spread 1 tablespoon of the minced blend over the bottom of the pot. Cover with half the potatoes arranged in an overlapping pattern. Sprinkle potatoes with salt and pepper, another 2 tablespoons of the minced blend, and about 1 teaspoon olive oil. Top with all the meat and another teaspoon oil. Overlap the rest of the potatoes on the meat, sprinkle with remaining herb blend, and a tablespoon or so of olive oil. Finish with salt and pepper. Pour the water down the side of the casserole.
3. Bake, uncovered, 45 minutes. Tip casserole and carefully spoon out pan juices to baste the top of the potatoes. Turn heat up to 325 degrees and continue baking another 1 1/2 hours, or until lamb is tender when pierced. Baste 2 or 3 times, while cooking. Serve hot, or hold up to an hour, reheating at 350 degrees. Sprinkle with the parsley just before taking to the table.
We served the dish with a spinach and onion salad.
And ate at the coffee table in the living room.
An amazing meal, melt in your mouth lamb with an incredible flavor and potatoes to boot... a one pot meal.
Aaah, she never disappoints and always leaves me awestruck.