Some readers have noticed the absence of lamb dishes here. The reason we have not had many lamb recipes is the same reason we have not had many caviar recipes: because the kind of investment one makes in a matched set of loin chops is enough to take away you appetite.
It is not, however, because cooking lamb presents any problems. On the contrary. With most cuts of lamb, you don't have to do much more than put them fairly near an ongoing fire.
But of course, that would not be complicated enough to satisfy most cooks. They would be happier with the recipe described by Porthos, one of the original Three Musketeers. Porthos began with the whole lamb. He then watched as his cook "boned the lamb as he would bone a fowl, leaving the skin on, however, which formed a brown crust all over the animal." The boned lamb was stuffed, filled with sausage and larks. And then baked. with these somewhat picturesque results: "When it is cut in beautiful slices, in the same way that one would cut an enormous sausage, a rose-colored gravy issues forth, which is as agreeable to the eye as it is exquisite to the palate."
Well, times change. And so do tastes. So perhaps this time out we'll try it a simpler way.
The Staples: Make sure these are all on hand: salt, pepper, cayenne pepper, eggs, olive oil, wine vinegar, garlic, arrowroot, butter, red wine, Grand Marnier.
The Shopping List: One leg of lamb (six pounds or more, boned by your butcher); two lemons; capers (one small bottle); three medium-sized onions; one red Italian onion; water cress (two buches); chicken brothe (one can); spaetzle (one box, available in food specialty stores); frozen raspberries (two boxes); cream.
Prepare the Day Before: The marinade for the lamb. In a shallow broiling pan, mix together these ingredients; three cloves of garlic, minced; one-half cup of olive oil; the juice of half a lemon; a half-cup red wine; freshly gound black pepper and salt. Peel the three onions, slice them thinly and mix them into the marinade.
Place the boned leg of lamb in the marinade and turn it over a couple of times. Refrigerate until the next day. Every now and then turn the piece of meat over. Remove it from the regrigerator a couple of hours before cooking it.
5 PM: We'll begin with the water cress salad. The watercress itself is rinsed and patted dry. The hard stems are cut away. A red onion is cut into thin slices and these rings are added to the salad. The dressing can be made now, then added at the last minute: Three parts of olive oil; one part of wine vinegar; salt and pepper; one clove of garlic, minced fine.
5:15 PM: The raspberry ice. The two packages of raspberries are miced with one-third of a cup of Grand Marnier and run through the blender or food processer until smooth. This is then returned to the freezer and later served in dessert cups with several spoons of fresh cream.
5:30 PM: The lemon-and-caper sauce for the lamb. This is the only tricky part to tonight's meal. It's tricky because you 'll be using a double boiler and egg yolks. One misstep equals scrambled eggs.
While the water is heating in the bottom half of the double boiler, stir together three egg yolks in the upper portion. Add the juice of half a lemon, a teaspoon of arrowroot, a dash of salt, a couple of shakes of cayenne pepper. And keep stirring until the sauce starts to thicken. Remove the double boiler from the heat and continue stirring for a couple of minutes. Keep the sauce warm over the hot water until ready to serve. Just before serving add a small handfull of capers.
5:45 PM: Start a pot of water boiling for the Spaetzle.Following the directions on the box, you'll cook the spaetzle just as you would cook pasta. The tiny dumplings should be cooked in futiously boiling water, drained at the proper moment and served with butter, salt and pepper.
6 PM: And now for the leg of lamb. Preheat the broiler so it will be at its hottest when you put in the lamb. Drain the marinade away from the lamb. You will see that the boned leg of lamb is not of an even thickness - it is "butterflied" and this uneven effect makes for interesting contrasts. The thickest portions of the meat should be cooked brown on the outside and pink on the inside; the thinner portions will be just right for those who like their meat well done.
As you place the lamb on the rack, take a moment to open the red wine. Broil the lamb for 15 minutes five inches from heat and then turn it over. Allow another 10 minutes on the second side and then test it for doneness. You'll slice the lamb in thin strips, the way you'd slice a London broil, and serve it accompanied by the lemon-and-caper sauce.