About this time of year we often find ourselves facing the same culinary conundrum: what to do with leftover lamb? I have always thought that throwing food away was almost criminal, but, truth be told, it is hard to know what to do with leftover lamb. It tends to develop a strong and, to my mind, none too pleasant taste when cooked again for any length of time. One stratagem to deal with this is to simmer the lamb with strong flavors like curry, that will stand up to (aka cover) the strong taste of re-cooked lamb. But, personally, I think the best way to use leftover lamb is to eat it at room temperature as a kind of salad with a mustardy vinaigrette, or to cook it very quickly.
For example, leftover lamb can be substituted for leftover braised beef to stuff pasta, as for mezzelune al brasato. Or, for a nice secondo, try this recipe: croquettes of lamb and Swiss chard:
Ingredients (of 4-6 people)
500g (1 lb.) leftover lamb roast
250g (1/2 lb.) Swiss chard, trimmed and parboiled
100g grated parmesan cheese (or more if you want)
150-200g country-style bread, crust removed, soaked in milk and squeezed dry
Salt and pepper (if needed)
A finely chopped garlic clove, or some finely chopped onion or shallot, sautéed until soft and translucent
Cut the lamb into chunks and put it in a food processors along with the rest of the ingredients other than the bread crumbs.
Using the pulse function, chop until you have a fine and well-mixed mince. I prefer to chop the meat into small nuggets, but not completely ground up, which gives your croquettes a more interesting texture. But, of course, you can suit yourself. Taste and adjust for seasoning; the mixture should be very savory.
Take a hunk of the mixture into your hands and press them tightly into small balls. Flatten the balls into patties or a lozenge-like shape if you like (or just leave them as is).
Roll the patties very lightly in bread crumbs and fry them over moderate heat in olive oil until nice and golden brown on both sides. Serve them immediately, with lemon wedges or, if you like with a light tomato sauce.
NOTES: This is about as casual a dish as you can imagine, so all of the measurements given above are really just suggestions. The ratio of lamb to chard, about 2:1 above, can vary as you prefer. You can use more bread, which adds more binder and makes for a tighter (but softer) mixture. And you can add more cheese, which gives the mixture a nice flavor, or omit the cheese if you don’t have on hand or don’t like cheese. You can omit the breadcrumbs as well. No big deal. The above directions assume you’re using some leftover roast lamb that has been well seasoned, say with garlic and rosemary. Otherwise, if using an unseasoned roast or even raw lamb, you can add a bit of finely chopped garlic, or sautéed onion or shallot to lend some more flavor.
Swiss chard (pictured below) has large stalks, which you should trim before parboiling the leaves for about 3-4 minutes in lightly salted water. You then refresh the leaves in cold water and squeeze the leaves tightly to remove as much moisture as you can before adding them to the food processor. The stalks make for good eating just by themselves, by the way, for example, gratinéed like this cardoon dish.
For tonight’s dinner, I made a light tomato sauce, seasoned with garlic and rosemary: you sauté the seasonings in abundant olive oil until the garlic is just beginning to brown. Remove them from the oil and then pass a can of best-quality tomatoes into the pot through a food mill. Season with salt, pepper and just a pinch of red pepper flakes. Simmer gently for 15-20 minutes.