6 or more
This is one of those delicious dishes that are complex in taste but easy in preparation. In Le Marche it is made with lamb and Ascolane olives, because that is what the land provides, but it could be made with other green olives; black olives such as taggiasche or Gaeta, would be fine, too. As in the recipe for Chicken with Olives and Pine Nuts (page nnn), the simple pan-cooking method used here is typical of Le Marche. Try preparing other meats, such as beef or pork, the same way—keeping in mind that the cooking time will vary—and the results will be excellent. And though lamb shoulder is delicious and economical, more expensive lamb would be extraordinary prepared in the same style. This dish is good any time of year, too. In the winter, serve it with polenta and braised bitter greens such as broccoli di rape; in summer, a tossed green salad would go nicely.
- 3½ pounds boneless lamb shoulder or leg
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt
- ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 7 plump garlic cloves, crushed and peeled
- ½ teaspoon peperoncino flakes, or to taste
- 2 tablespoons fresh rosemary leaves, stripped from the branch
- 1 cup white wine
- 2 tablespoons red-wine vinegar
- 1½ cups brine-cured green Italian olives or oil-cured black Italian olives, crushed and pitted
Trim the exterior fat from the lamb shoulder or leg, and cut the meat into 2-inch pieces, removing fat and bits of cartilage as you find them. Pat the pieces dry with paper towels, and season all over with half the salt.
Pour the olive oil into the pan, and set it over medium heat. Scatter in the crushed garlic cloves and peperoncino. When the garlic is sizzling, lay in all the lamb pieces in one layer, scatter the rosemary on top, and season with the remaining salt. When the meat starts to sizzle, cover the pan, lower the heat, and let cook gently, browning slowly and releasing its fat and juices, about 10 minutes. Uncover the pan, turn the pieces, and move them around the pan to cook evenly, then cover and cook for another 10 minutes. Turn again, and continue cooking, covered, for another 10 to 15 minutes, until the lamb is nicely browned all over and the pan juices have thickened and caramelized. (If there is a lot of fat in the bottom of the pan, tilt the skillet and spoon off the fat from one side.)
Stir the wine and vinegar together, and pour them into the skillet, swirling them with the pan juices. Bring the liquids to a boil, and cook them down quickly to form a syrupy sauce. Drop the olives into the pan, all around the lamb chunks, then cover and adjust the heat to a bubbling simmer. Cook for another 10 minutes or so, again concentrating the juices and marrying the flavors. Cook uncovered for a few final minutes, tumbling the meat and olives in the pan, coating them with the sauce.
Serve right from the skillet, or heap the meat chunks on a platter or in a shallow serving bowl. Spoon out any sauce and olives left in the pan, and drizzle over the lamb.