(CNN) – Be prepared to get your hands dirty and eat with gusto. An Italian chef from southern Italy is reviving an old cooking method that makes the most tender and decadent lamb.
In Martone, a mountain town in the Calabria region, farmer and chef Pino Trimboli wraps herb-cured meats in moist clay to seal in the aromatic flavors and sweet juices. After the meat is cooked and hardened in the clay oven, the clay shell is hit hard to break it apart, revealing the salty meat inside.
This ancient tradition dates back to the Stone Age.
“It melts in your mouth,” Trimboli said, describing the lamb.
“It’s crazy,” Tucci said.
Chef Pino Trimboli of La Collinetta, in the Calabria region, combines lamb with aromatics and adds Calabrian black pork prosciutto.
Lamb Baked in Clay
(Lamb cooked in clay)
Makes 4 to 6 servings
Whole leg of lamb (about 3 ¼ kilos | 1.5 kilograms)
1 pound | ½ kilogram of pork skin or bacon, thinly sliced
1 clove of garlic, peeled and finely chopped
1 sprig of rosemary, finely chopped
4 bay leaves
¼ cup | 55 grams unsalted butter, cut into small pieces (about 1×2 centimeters or ¾ inch)
A pinch of dried oregano
A pinch of orange powder (citrus powder works)
2 sheets of parchment paper
6 ½ kilos | 3 kilos of clay for baking
The clay seals flavor and juice the parchment-wrapped lamb before baking. When the clay hardens, the meat is ready.
1. Preheat the oven to 250 degrees Celsius (480 degrees Fahrenheit).
2. Remove the leg of lamb from the bone by cutting straight towards the bone and then cutting around until it is removed along with the bone joint. For ease of cooking, cut into pieces approximately 3×9 centimeters (about 1 ¼x3 ½ inches). Then put the lamb on a piece of parchment and mix the meat with the pork skin, garlic and rosemary. Add bay leaves; leave it whole
3. Sprinkle the butter, oregano and orange powder over the meat. Using the second sheet of parchment, roll up the meat, making sure all surfaces are covered.
4. Mold the clay around the parchment layer, using a little water to soften it. Make sure it sticks to the folded leg.
5. Bake the lamb in the oven at 250 degrees Celsius (480 degrees Fahrenheit) until the clay hardens, about 3 1/2 hours.
Chef Pino Trimbol pours the lamb’s juices over the home-style Calabrian dish.
6. When cooked, leave the meat for 15 minutes. Next, place the piece of cooked clay on a tray and carefully break it up with a spoon. Remove the clay, gently peel off the parchment and remove the bay leaves. Then serve the meat on a large plate. Pour the meat juices over the tray.
This recipe is courtesy of chef Pino Trimboli of La Collinetta in Martone, Italy.