Monday, September 24, 2012

RECIPE - Leg of Lamb, Paraíba-style (Pernil de Cordeiro)

After yesterday's recipe for a shrimp cocktail first course, our three-recipe homage to Chico César continues with this substantial main course from the semi-arid interior of the state of Paraíba.

In the harsh scrub-and-cactus landscape called the sertão, only men, plants and animals that can adapt themselves to hot, dusty and dry conditions can survive. The people of this region are known for their toughness of character and for their stoicism in the face of conditions that would drive more sensitive souls to flee to more benign conditions along the coast. And the animals have to share the same conditions as their owners, so they too share their masters' characteristics.

One domestic animal that is perfectly at home in the sertão is the goat, and the original of this recipe probably was for a goat. However, as goat is not always easy to come by, and because some people don't like the strong gamy taste of goat, here the recipe is adapted for a leg of lamb.

Tomorrow we'll wrap up our three-recipe collection with a dessert from Paraíba.
RECIPE - Leg of Lamb, Paraíba-style (Pernil de Cordeiro)
Serves 6

1 bone-in leg of lamb, about 3 lbs (1.5 kg)
salt and pepper to taste
1 1/2 cups dry white wine
3 bay leaves
1 medium onion, chopped
1 clove garlic,, crushed
1 medium tomato, seeded and chopped
2 Tbsp canned tomato pulp
1/2 Tbsp Dijon mustard
2 Tbsp honey
8 medium boiling potatoes, peeled and quartered
1/2 cup unsalted butter,melted
chopped Italian parsley (for garnish)
Season the lamb with salt and pepper to taste. In a small bowl, combine the wine, bay leaves, onion, garlic, tomatoes, tomato pulp and mustard and mix well. Spread this paste over the entire surface of the lamb, then marinade the lamb, refrigerated, for 24 hours.

Preheat the oven tp 350F (180C). Remove the lamb from the refrigerator 30 minutes before beginning cooking. Put the lamb in a large roasting pan, and cover loosely with a tent of aluminum foil. Cook the lamb for 60 minutes, then remove from the oven, and baste with melted butter. Return to the oven, uncovered and let brown for 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and brush with honey. Return to the oven, then again after 10 minutes, remove from oven and brush a final time with honey. Cover the roast with tin foil and let rest for at least 20 minutes.

Put the potatoes in rapidly boiling water and cook while the roast rests until they are just tender. Remove from the heat, drain thoroughly and reserve keeping warm.

Remove the lamb from the roaster and place on a large serving platter. Put the potatoes in the roasting pan and toss them in the roast's juices and sauce. Place them around the lamb on the platte,r, then pour the remaining sauce over all. Sprinkle with parsley and serve immediately, carving at the table.


  1. The state is called Paraíba. Parnaíba is a city in the state of Piauí. ;)

    1. Hi - thanks for the expert copy editing! I know that Parnaíba is in Piauí, but I made a typographical error. I've corrected the mistake.


  2. Wow really delicious and I'll try it the next time i'm having a few guests over :) i generally cook the meat chops in a pressure cooker so they're done quickly. You can try this recipe once and see if it suits brazilian tastes.. I'll be honored..

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