Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Capretto alla Locarnese (Potroasted Kid or Lamb in Herbs, Cream and Wine)


In those central European countries where people raise goats for dairy purposes, spring is the time when a lot of tender young milk-fed kid starts turning up in the local butcher shops. This is because about half the kids born each spring are male, and no dairy herd really needs more than one billy goat to keep things ticking along.

The southern Swiss canton of Ticino, where Locarno is situated, has as many herds of dairy goats as anyplace else in the country. Possibly there are even more, as the milder climate on the southern side of the Alps means the mountain herds will find more good grazing at the higher altitudes than they might elsewhere in Switzerland (and earlier in the year, too). This recipe was very likely devised as a local response to the yearly problem of how to deal with the springtime surplus of kid. And for times of the year when kid isn't in the local butcher -- or for those who don't care for the idea of kid whether they can find any or not -- this recipe is perfectly delicious with good lamb.

The technique of long slow simmering in wine and herbs is one that turns up in other Ticinese dishes, especially some involving rabbit. The addition of the cream at the end of the recipe produces a beautifully rich sauce, fragrant with sage and (a little unusually) mint and cinnamon, possibly speaking of some passing influence from further south and east in the Mediterranean regions. As for the rum, it may have been an ingredient from the beginning, or may have slipped into the recipe as a substitution for grappa in the days before that unique spirit was easy to obtain outside of Switzerland.

  • 2 pounds boneless kid or lamb
  • Salt and fresh-ground pepper to season
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground sage, or 2 1/2 teaspoons fresh sage
  • 6 juniper berries, crushed
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried mint, or 1 tablespoon fresh mint
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspoon nutmeg (fresh if possible)
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 1 tablespoon rum
  • Cut the kid or lamb into bite-sized pieces. (Or, if you're lucky enough to be able to get stewing meat from your butcher that's still on the bone, simply put the large pieces into the casserole when it comes time, and add fifteen to thirty minutes to your cooking time.) Season the meat well with the salt and pepper.
  • Heat the butter in a casserole, and add the chopped sage and mint, the juniper berries, and the cinnamon and nutmeg. Cook, stirring constantly, for 3 minutes. Add the meat and brown on all sides.
  • Lower the heat and add the white wine. Simmer, covered, until the meat is tender -- it took us a little more than an hour with the kid we used, the last time we had some. Lamb can take a little longer: test it at intervals to see. It should be very tender before you stop simmering. You can top up the cooking liquid with a little more white wine if you're concerned about the meat drying out.
  • (Incidentally, this recipe can also be made in the oven: bring the cooking liquids to a boil before putting the dish in an oven preheated to 375F / 175C. Add about twenty minutes to the cooking time if you do the dish this way, and again, test it every now and then for doneness.
  • When the kid or lamb is finished cooking, remove the meat to a platter and keep warm. Strain the sauce. Put the sauce back in the casserole on the stovetop, and stir in the cream and rum. Bring the sauce to a boil and reduce it to the consistency of heavy cream.
  • Then return the meat to the sauce and heat it through: or, if you prefer, serve it and pour the sauce over (as we did for the photo).
  • Serve with boiled rice and green peas.

No comments: