Stewed Lamb with Potatoes 

(“Agnello in Umido con Patate”)
(“Agneddu Aggrassatu chi Patati ”)
 

  

Milk fed lamb is a traditional Easter dish. 

In Palermo, the white and tender meat of the “agnello”, the lamb, is prepared and combines well with the “aggrassata” sauce, a light wine gravy, thickened by the flour coating of the lamb and the starch released by the crispy new potatoes, that without fail go with it.  

Milk fed lamb stew is a traditional Easter plate prepared in Palermo.  

This recipe is simple to make and it is delicious; it is a unique dish which can only be prepared and tasted at this time of the year, when milk fed lamb and young potatoes are available. 

The word “aggrassatu” derives from the French “glacer” which in Latin means coating: in fact the lamb must be very lightly coated with flour before being sautéed. 

This word was adopted in the 13th century; as it is mentioned in other recipes, when Beatrix, the daughter of Raymond-Berenger IV, Count of Provence, married Charles I d’Anjou, king of Sicily who lived in Palermo, made an effort to Frenchify Sicilian cooking and the term infarinare, coating was translated in the Provencal or Occitan “glacer” and morphed into the Sicilian word “aggrassatu

The Occitan are people speaking a Latin dialect; they occupy parts of the southern part of Europe, and particularly the area of Catalonia in Spain, parts of La Provence in France, and in Italy in the area now known as Piedmont, and Liguria and the town of Guardia Piamontese, in Calabria. 

This sauce is made very simply, without aromatic herbs, not to alter the savor of the lamb.  

The kid, il capretto or baby goat can be used instead of lamb; it is preferred by some families because of the slight piquant smell and the more savory taste and it can be cooked “aggrassato” like lamb.  

The capretto is generally marinated in acidulated water with a few tablespoons of lemon juice or vinegar, than rinsed 2 o 3 times with running water. Follow the same cooking method as for the lamb. 

In the countryside the lamb or capretto is mostly baked or barbequed; the meat is rubbed with olive oil and flavored with garlic, rosemary, salt and pepper. Typically the lamb or kid and diced new potatoes, in season around Easter, are baked at 375 degrees for about 15 minutes for each pound of meat. 

If in doubt about the baking time, ask your butcher or somebody who can help you. 

Buy only milk feed agnello or capretto, 6 to 8 weeks old and weighing not more than 22 pounds.  

  

Serves 6 to 8 

  

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup of olive oil 
  • 6 large new potatoes peeled and cubed about 1 ½ inches   
  • 2 large carrots, peeled and cut into 1 ½ inches pieces 
  • ½ baby lamb about 10 lb. Trimmed of excess fat & cut into pieces   
  • 1 cup of flour for coating   
  • 4 medium onions, sliced into ½ inch thick slices  
  • 1 cup of white wine   
  • 2 bay leaves 
  • salt and pepper 
  • Parsley for garnish  
  • Hot water to add when cooking   

   PREPARATION 

 

The Potatoes 

In a large heavy skillet, heat ¼ of a cup of olive oil over a medium-high flame: add the carrots and the potatoes and cook until the potatoes are light-golden brown, stirring occasionally.  

When done, use a slotted spoon to transfer into a bowl: keep warm. 

Discard oil. 

The Lamb 

Rinse the lamb or capretto pieces in cold running water 2 times. Place in a colander for a few minutes and pat dry with paper or kitchen towels.
In a large sauté pan, heat ¼ cup of oil over a medium flame, lightly coat each pieces of meat with flour and slowly sauté until they are browned on all sides; remove with a slotted spoon, set aside on a bowl and season with salt and pepper. 

 

The Assembly 

Use the same pot, pour a few tablespoons of oil and heat over a medium-high flame. Add the sliced onions, keep stirring and scrape any brown residue stuck at the bottom of the pan. 

When onions are translucent add the sautéed pieces of agnello or capretto

Simmer for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the wine and increase the heat to high until it starts to bubble. 

Add 1 cup of hot water, salt and pepper to taste, and the bay leaves; bring it to a boil then lower the heat and simmer covered for 45 minutes to one hour. Stir occasionally and if sauce is too watery, cook the stew uncovered until it thickens to a soupy-sauce consistency; if it is too dry add some hot water, a little at a time.  

To Finish

Add the potatoes and carrots: check again for salt and pepper and cook for an additional 10 minutes to allow the flavors to blend. 

Lamb or capretto is done when it separate from the bone with a fork. 

Remove the bay leaves before serving. 

Serve “l’agneddu aggrassatu” with fresh rimacinato bread and Nero di Avola or Californian Merlot wine. 

 

Stewed Lamb