(CNN) – Be prepared to get your hands dirty and eat heavily. An Italian chef in southern Italy is resurrecting an ancient cooking method that makes lamb more tender and chunky.
In Martone, a mountain village in Calabria, farmer and chef Pino Trimboli wraps meats mottled with herbs in wet clay to seal the aromatic flavors and delicious juices. After the meat cooks and the clay has hardened in the oven, he hits the clay shell hard to break it, revealing the flavorful meat inside.
This centuries-old tradition dates back to the Stone Age.
“It melts in your mouth,” said Trimboli describing the lamb.
“It falls apart,” Tucci cheered.
Chef Pino Trimboli of La Collinetta, in Calabria, pairs the lamb with the aromas and adds Calabrian black pork ham.
Lamb cooked in clay
(Lamb Cooked in Clay)
For 4-6 servings
Whole leg of lamb (approx.3 ¼ lbs | 1.5 kilograms)
1 pound | ½ kilogram of pork rind or thinly sliced bacon
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 x 2 cm or 3/4 inch)
A pinch of dried oregano
A pinch of orange powder (any citrus powder works)
2 sheets of parchment paper
6 ½ lbs. | 3 kilograms of clay for cooking
The clay seals the flavor and juices of the lamb wrapped in parchment before putting it in the oven. When the clay hardens, the meat is ready.
1. Preheat the oven to 250 degrees Celsius (480 degrees Fahrenheit).
2. Debone the leg of lamb by cutting it straight at the bone and then trimming it around until it can be removed along with the joints of the bone. For easier cooking, coarsely chop into 3×9 centimeter pieces (about 1 ¼x3 ½ inch). Then place the lamb on a sheet of baking paper and mix the meat with the rind, garlic and rosemary. Add the bay leaves; leave them whole.
3. Sprinkle the meat with the butter, oregano and powdered orange. Using the second sheet of parchment, wrap the meat, making sure all surfaces are covered.
4. Shape the clay around the parchment layer, using a little water to soften it. Make sure it fits snugly against the wrapped leg.
5. Bake the lamb in the oven at 250 degrees Celsius (480 degrees Fahrenheit) until the clay has hardened, about 3 and a half hours.
Chef Pino Trimbol pours the lamb juices on the Calabrian homemade dish.
6. When cooked, let the meat rest for 15 minutes. Next, lay the baked clay pack on a tray and carefully break it up with a spoon. Remove the clay, gently unwrap the parchment and discard the bay leaves. Then serve the meat on a large plate. Pour the meat juices on the plate.
This recipe is courtesy of Pino Trimboli, chef at La Collinetta restaurant in Martone, Italy.