ITALIAN EASTER FEASTING: CRISPY LAMB CUTLETS

Whether or not you are religious, Easter can be a real time of renewal for everybody. Spring returns, birds start singing, rabbits ‘wake up’ and everything is colourful again. Even the Spring showers are lush.

In the past, it was also the end of a long, hard period of wintery Lent. So it was a celebration of life’s rebirth in all ways – a moment when you were finally allowed to eat something juicy, rich and tender. So what better meat than lamb to celebrate such a moment? This is the time when lambs are younger and at their most tender – the perfect combination of nature’s rejuvenation, Spring’s excitement, and a little virginal purity (Oh! How evil we are!)

This is what my family always prepares for Easter lunch: Costolette d’Agnello Fritte (fried lamb cutlets). It’s delicious and really easy to make. But, as it’s a dish that should be served really hot, it inevitably needs a nice mamma cooking away, while the young and old laugh, drink, and eat at the table.

If you are lucky, and you have a mamma at hand, great. But, if like me you were looking to rent one and couldn’t find any around (all booked up these mamme are these days!), here’s what you need to do to cook fried lamb cutlets for four this Easter:

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  • 3 or 4 lamb cutlets per person (depending on how hungry you are) – you should ask your butcher for meat low in fat
  • 3 eggs
  • Dried fine breadcrumbs
  • Olive or rapeseed oil to fry (I suggest at least 750ml)
  • A couple of lemons

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1. Cut off the excess fat from each cutlet and, holding them by the bone, flatten them with a meat pounder (or a heavy rolling pin) so they are as thin as the bone. This also helps to tenderise the meat.

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2. Beat the eggs with two or three generous pinches of sea salt in a shallow bowl.

3. Next to it, place another shallow bowl filled with the breadcrumbs and a tray lined with baking paper.

4. Now take each cutlet again by the bone, dip it in the beaten egg to coat and then in the breadcrumbs so they are all well coated, but without lumps. Some people add flour to this line up, but I find it creates too much hard crust rather than a thin, crunchy layer.

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5. Put a frying pan on the hob and fill it with enough oil to shallow-fry: at least 1 to 2 cm deep. This will allow the cutlets to bubble up on the sides. Make sure to have all your cutlets laid out next to the pan and a plate covered with kitchen towel on the other side, so as soon as each cutlet is ready you can lay it to rest on the absorbing paper. Lay stacks of cutlets between layers of kitchen towel.

6. Heat up the oil very well. It has to be very hot, at least 90 degrees (I fried these at 100). If the oil is not hot enough, they will need to stay a lot longer in the frying pan and will end up soaking up too much oil.

7. When the oil is ready, place the cutlets in the pan so they have space to move around. As they cook they will bubble up and produce some brownish floating foam, which you should remove with a skimmer as you fry.

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9. Cook each cutlet between 6 and 8 minutes, turning them every other minute until they are golden brown. Inside they should still be juicy and tender, almost pink, or the meat becomes too chewy.

10. Serve as hot as you can, with an added sprinkle of the best sea salt and some lemon wedges.

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Styling: Margherita Poggiali
Photography: Dee Ramadan

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