Looking to make a big impression with your Easter dinner?
Why not try a little lamb? Well, actually, a whole one. While the idea of roasting a large hunk of meat in your own backyard might seem intimidating, Chef Jordan Toft of Los Angeles eatery The Eveleigh has a back-to-basics guide for hosting an unforgettable spring holiday soiree.
On the menu: Whole roasted lamb on an outdoor asado.
The Australian native believes that roasting an entire animal brings eaters closer to understanding where their food is really coming from and is actually pretty straightforward.
“The biggest thing is organization. If you let the day get away from you, you’ll have a lot of hungry people milling around,” Toft explained to FoxNews.com. The tools required are common, most can be purchased from Home Depot. And if you think you need to move out to country to have an authentic roasting experience, think again.
“The pit doesn’t need a ton of space. I’ve even done it in a West Hollywood backyard,” Toft says. “It really is a very basic process. Asado was originally done by shepherds in Argentina who learned it from Arab cultures.”
The term “asado” basically translates to grill or roast, but to get the truly authentic flavor, you’ll need to prepare the meat over an outdoor fire pit, fed only with wood and natural coals. While Toft admits the idea of building your own homemade grill is daunting for beginners, he thinks that with the right tools, and a lot of patience, the results are undeniably delicious.
“The meat has a great smokiness, it never touches the flames, it just gets bathed in smoke. If you've really taken the time, you get a pulled pork-like similarity – the meat almost confits within itself and is absolutely unctuous.”
With such a succulent main dish, Toft recommends going easy on the sides. Seasonal ingredients play a huge role in Toft’s menu decisions so he recommends something light with a nice acidic bite.
Recipe: Black Quinoa & Grilled Squash
Say lamb isn’t your thing. The asado can play host to a variety of meats.
“I’ve done a whole Ivory salmon using wild fennel. You can do pigs. While the fire is going you can cook an assortment of produce – just pop some whole sweet potatoes in the ashes, roast, then serve with fresh herbs and a little olive oil,” says the chef.
Fresh off his Coachella pop-up, Toft recognizes that not everyone will go crazy over seeing a whole animal splayed up on a spit.
“Some people will say ‘oh that’s gross’ but most are really attracted to the cultural aspect. You always get stories like ‘my mother cooked it like this’ – it creates memories, and kind of brings people in to a shared experience.”
The best part of evening may just be the end of the night when guests are finally satiated. Bellies full, it’s time to reward yourself for some intense outdoor cooking.
“Once its all done and most of the guests have gone, have a seat by the fire, sit back and sip a good American whiskey,” the chef recommends.
Here are Jordan Tofts’ top tips for creating the perfect Easter asado experience:
1. Selecting your lamb.
While a whole lamb may not be available at your typical grocery store, Toft says there are numerous ways to find a suitable beast. “With advance notice, a specialty butcher should be able to rustle one up for you,” Toft says. “There are quite a few places online.” A 40-pound lamb will serve a group of 20 hungry guests. Know where your meat is coming from and opt for organic and ethically raised meat.
2. Pit assembly.
Instead of a circle, Toft recommends building a three-sided pit. Be wary of your surroundings and remember, safety first. “You need a space where you won’t catch the forest on fire.”
3. Preparing the roast.
Butchering a whole animal will take a bit of manpower but Toft says using a hack saw will ease the process. Seasoning is simple. A little salt water and fresh herbs like rosemary will enhance the natural flavor of the meat.
Once the animal is splayed you’re ready to set up your roast.
4. Get cooking.
The old school set up looks like something reminiscent of a Flintstones’ barbecue. Use wire to string up the lamb, leg by leg, to the stake positioned at a 45 degree angle.
5. Have patience, you will be rewarded.
“If I want to serve animal at around two in the afternoon, I’m up at six in the morning,” says Toft of the lengthy process. Roasting time can vary with local conditions and size of the animal but allow anywhere from four to seven hours.
The end result? Smokey perfection.
“You just can’t compare with something that’s been roasted over a fire.”