God Paske! Happy Easter from your friends in Norway! The modern Easter celebration in Norway is a blend of Christian and Pagan traditions, although both surround the ideas of ‘rebirth’. Scandinavia, as with most of greater Europe, has become increasingly secularized over the last decades (the Norwegian government officially separated from the Lutheran church in May of 2012), but many Norwegians still celebrate Christian holidays as more cultural celebrations than religious ones, and would never miss out on a reason to cook up a delicious Norwegian lamb.
As mentioned in Sheep at Dovre, Norwegian lamb is considered a world-class ingredient thanks to the nutritious sustenance provided by the wild pastures the sheep are left to roam. The lamb meat is filled with hints of mountain vegetation and herbs, as well as the clear, frigid water running through the hillsides. The flavors of mountainous birch trees, funky forest mushrooms, and the earthy smell of minerally reindeer moss have been infused into the meat of the animal. When cooked correctly, the lamb meat will come out tender and juicy, melting away on the tongue.
This particular lamb dish requires little oversight by the cook once it’s set in the oven, therefore remaining a popular choice for dinner over easter vacation when Norwegians swarm to their cabins in the mountains to ski. We prepared our own Easter dinner this year, and have detailed the recipe below.
We Have the Meats: Ingredients, as usual, are the most important step in the process. Consistent temperature distribution is essential to a well-cooked hunk of meat, so look for a cut with evenly stratified deposits of fat and muscle.
For seasoning, feel free to ad lib a mixture, but be sure to include a pinch of patience. In our marinade, we followed the universal HOS base recipe, an acronym for herbs, oil, and sour. Our particular family HOS is a mixture of rosemary, garlic, thyme, extra virgin olive oil, orange slices, red wine and lemon. We marinated the lamb for three hours, but it can be left to its devices for up to 48. Just make sure that the meat reaches room temperature well before cooking.
Veggie Tales: The next step requires a bundle of vegetables, of which celery root, carrot, onions, garlic and leek are the most commonly used. Chop them all into rough chunks, approximately one square inch, and put in a thermo-secure pan with the meat, ready for the oven. Some prefer to sear the meat once over to brown the outer skin. Pour a deciliter (approx. 3 oz) or two of wine over the pan before you set it in the oven for 1.5 to 2 hours at 130° C [266°F].
It’s Gettin’ Hot in Herre: As with any other cut of meat, general opinion differs on the ideal degree of doneness. Our experience is that the meat is much more tender and juicier when cooked at lower temperatures. We prefer the meat to stop at around 58°C [136°F], so we remove it from the oven at 55°C as the temperature will continue to rise a bit after the heat is removed.
Saucy: Prepare the sauce while the meat is in the oven. Combine shallots, garlic, butter, and rosemary to build the base. When the meat is finished, add in the juices from the bottom of the pan to enrich the flavor complexity of the sauce. To add an extra layer, let the sauce simmer and sprinkle in some whole, dried, funnel chanterelle mushrooms.
Although fewer Norwegians consider themselves obligated to follow religious traditions, the tradition of bringing the family together out of their busy everyday lives is even more important in the modern world. Staying at the family cabin in the mountains or the forest stirs up happy memories of days spent skiing and hiking; there’s nothing better than watching the snow fall outside and tucking in to a warm, juicy, tender lamb.