Sunday, April 16, 2006

Easter Dinner/Wines

We had our Easter dinner Saturday evening, so our guests the Hughens, who were in from Austin, could get back at a reasonable hour on Sunday. The tasting notes are from memory, since I didn't do anything but enjoy the food, wine, and company on Saturday. We had these wines with Oma's Egyptian Lamb, the recipe for which follows the tasting notes.

2005 Vida Organica Malbec Rose (Mendoza, Argentina) -- I think I previously reviewed (and definitely remember liking) the 2004 version of this wine, and this one is just as good. Fresh nose of strawberry and cherry fruit, with a tad of earthiness too -- unusual for a rose. Great balance, and clean, refreshing flavors. Very nicely done dry rose for drinking throughout the summer months ahead. Was about $8 at Whole Foods on Bellaire.

2000 Tardieu-Laurent Cotes du Rhone "Guy Louis" -- Tardieu-Laurent is probably THE best negociant in the south of France, in my view. Their wines are always more expensive in every appellation, but are frequently so far superior to the competition (particularly in the less prestigious appellations) so as to warrant the extra cost. This wine was amazing, and not only would blow away almost any other Cotes du Rhone I've had in the last 20 years, but also most regular Chateauneuf-du-Papes as well. Remarkable nose of rich blackberry, cassis, incense and earthy-iodine scents. Still young in the mouth, with some tannic structure for a few more years' development (if you've got a cellar or good temperature controlled wine storage unit -- I don't). Great length and concentration. I think I paid about $24 a couple of years ago for this, but Specs on Smith still has some left, albeit at $29 now.

Recipe for "Egyptian Lamb" -- This is a recipe I got from Liz's mom, and it's become our Easter tradition. We had it yesterday with the wines listed above. It results in a well-done roast (not rare, so beware), but it's very flavorful and moist. The presentation is nice because you've got a leg of lamb surrounded by neat piles of many different-colored roasted veggies, all of whose flavors have mingled with the roast juices.

1 6 to 8 lb. leg of lamb
1 large clove garlic (crushed)
2 onions or leeks, roughly minced
1 lb green beans
2-4 eggplants, depending on size (I like smaller ones), cut into 1" cubes
1 1/2 lbs zucchini, cut in half, lengthwise, then into 1/2 " slices
2 green bell peppers
3-4 tomatoes, cut into large chunks
1/2 teas. marjoram
2 bay leaves
2 tblsp. chopped parsley
3 tblsp. tomato paste
oregano (dried)
salt, pepper

Preheat over to 450. Bone leg of lamb. Rub lamb all over with crushed garlic. Sprinkle and rub in salt, pepper, and oregano. (Optionally, then put bone back in and tie meat up around it since bones add flavor).

Allow 30 minutes per pound total cooking time. Place leg in a LARGE roasting pan in oven, and roast at high heat for 20 minutes or so. Then reduce heat to 325. When you've got about 2 1/2 hours to go (which may be right away if you've got a smaller leg), add the onions or leeks, and soften them in the roast juices for 10 minutes or so. While that's going on, parboil the green beans in 1 cup water, reserving the water. Push the onions/leeks into a pile, then add the green beans and all the other veggies, in separate mounds surrounding the leg. Season with salt and pepper. Add marjoram, bay leaves, and parsley. Dissolve tomato paste in reserved green bean water, and pour over all veggies.

Roast, uncovered, until lamb is done, basting occasionally.

Carve into thick slices and arrange on plates with desired veggies. Spoon on pan juices.

VARIATIONS: Yesterday, I tried a few variations, and we all liked them. First, instead of rubbing with one clove of garlic, I pressed three finely chopped cloves of garlic into the meat (both outside and inside where I replaced and tied in the bone). Second, instead of oregano, marjoram, and bay leaf, I used the leaves of several sprigs of fresh rosemary, again, pressed into the meat. Third, I've taken to using Indian eggplant (available at Fiesta near Reliant Stadium). They're smaller (about the size of an egg), firmer, and have a better flavor than the big spongy monstrosities that pass for regular eggplant these days.

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