Spring Lamb

by: Sarah Leah Chase

The lamb and spring have long been synonymous. Both are potent symbols of rebirth dating back to ancient times. While I tend to prefer to let images such as Botticelli’s graceful “Primavera” dance in my head at the first spring sighting of a daffodil or hyacinth, the sacrifice of a lamb has long been a springtime ritual shared by many religions – most familiar to us in Christian and Jewish rites woven into the celebrations of Easter and Passover. Fortunately in this secular age, the goriest parts of this ritual have fallen by the wayside, allowing us to think of lamb in terms of being one of spring’s greatest culinary highlights.

Mushroom-stuffed Lamb Shoulder

Lamb shoulder is wonderfully succulent when it comes from a young spring lamb, and this woodsy mushroom and bread-crumb stuffing makes for a most delectable seasonal combination.

2 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 cup minced onion
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 pound fresh mushrooms, preferably
a mix of button, cremini and shiitake, trimmed and cut into pieces the size of small pebbles
Juice of 1 lemon
1 cup fresh bread crumbs
2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley
1 tablespoon minced fresh thyme
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
1 boned shoulder of lamb, about 3-1/2 lbs.
Additional olive oil
A few sprigs fresh thyme or rosemary

  1. Preheat oven to 375 F.
  2. Heat the butter and oil together in a sauté pan over medium heat until the butter foams and then subsides. Add the minced onion and garlic and sauté until translucent, about 3 minutes. Add the mushrooms and lemon juice and cook, stirring, for about 5 minutes. Add the bread crumbs and stir to combine. Stir in the minced parsley and thyme and season to taste with salt and pepper. Set aside to cool a bit.
  3. Lay the lamb, fat-side down, on a clean work surface. Season generously all over with salt and pepper. Spoon the mushroom filling over the lamb, spreading to cover the meat as evenly as possible. Roll the lamb up like a jelly-roll to spiral the filling inside. Some of the filling may squirt out, but just try to push it back in to make it as neat as possible. Tie the rolled roast in several places with kitchen twine to secure and keep it in place. Rub the roast with olive oil and sprinkle with a bit more salt, pepper and the thyme or rosemary sprigs.
  4. Place the roast, fat-side up, on a rack in a shallow roasting pan. Roast in the oven for about 1 hour and 15 minutes, or until the center of the roast registers 125 F. on a meat thermometer for medium-rare meat. Cook longer if more well-done meat is desired. Remove roast from oven, tent with foil, and let rest for at least 15 minutes before carving into slices. Serve at once.

Serves 6 to 8.