I guess it’s not much of a secret ingredient if we jump around cheering, “Pomegranate molasses is the best!” One of the best things to come out of the Middle East since algebra, pomegranate molasses is this viscous stuff that hits you all powerful sour but finishes lovable and fruity—it complements rich meats fabulously and (a tip Zora learned on a trip to Syria) can be brushed on fish before you stick it on the grill. We developed this particular lamb treatment quite a few years back, while on a pomegranate molasses bender (yes, it even works in cocktails). The preparation is essentially French—garlic, herbs, anchovies, red wine—but the Syrian Secret gives it a fantastic kick.
And one of the nicest things about using a somewhat exotic ingredient is that it makes something seem fancy when, in fact, all you did was stuff it in a pot and stick it in the oven (when she’s really in a rush, Tamara even skips the stripping-the-herbs step). The hardest part of the recipe is tying the lamb up—you’ll need some kitchen twine, and it helps to have someone to hold the knots. It’s also nice to have a meat thermometer (these are cheap, and usually available even at standard supermarkets), as well as a roasting pan. If a roasting pan sounds like something only grown-ups have, you can also use a big Pyrex casserole dish or something similar—but this is one case where a cast-iron skillet won’t do, because the long-simmering wine reacts badly with the metal, making the sauce taste like you just got a cavity filled.
1 small bunch each fresh rosemary, basil, thyme, oregano and parsley
12–15 cloves garlic
5 anchovy fillets (optional)
1 cup pomegranate molasses
2/3 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons coarsely ground black pepper, plus a bit more to finish
1 bottle wine, preferably a dry red
One 5- to 6-pound boneless leg of lamb (or 6–7 pounds bone-in)
Preheat the oven to 425°F. Set aside a couple of sprigs of each herb, then strip the leaves off the rest. Peel the garlic and chop it and the herbs roughly—no need to relive that scene in Goodfellas; just work it into manageable pieces. Chop the anchovies into small pieces too. Scrape both into a bowl with the herb leaves, then mix in the pomegranate molasses and olive oil. Add the pepper and a bit of salt (a couple of small pinches if you’re using anchovies; a couple of larger ones if not), and combine. The mixture should be wet, like a very overdressed salad.
Open the bottle of wine and pour yourself a glass.
Roll out your boneless leg of lamb, pat it dry with paper towels if needed and smear about two thirds of the paste thickly all over the inside. Tamara recommends using your hands, as it’s the best way to get in all the crannies—either way, it will be messy, and that’s good. Roll the leg up, tucking in the thinner flap of meat at the end, and tie the whole thing up with string. When your blood pressure begins to rise because you cannot get the leg completely closed and your hands are all oily and the twine is slipping, take a deep breath and revisit your wine. Our roasts usually look more like Christmas packages wrapped by a three-year-old who lost his thumbs in a tragic accident than anything a butcher would call his own—we do a few loops around the sides, and then another couple along the length of the roast. Whatever works, you know?
Rub the outside of your tied-up leg with the remaining third of the paste and set the baby, fat side up, directly in your roasting pan or Dutch oven—no need for a rack. (If you’re working with a bone-in leg, just slather the meat all over with the paste and drop anything remaining in the pan.) Finish it with a few grinds of pepper. Pour enough of the wine into the pan to come up an inch or so around the lamb, and toss in the herb sprigs you set aside earlier, plus any remaining paste.
Place the lamb in the oven and roast uncovered, checking it periodically. If it looks like it’s drying out, add a bit more of the wine or, if you drank all the wine, water. After 45 minutes, poke a meat thermometer deep in the center of the roast (but away from the bone, if your leg still has one). Your goal is 130°F for medium-rare, and keep in mind that the roast will gain a few degrees even after it’s pulled out of the oven; also, for the few guests who might want their meat a bit less bloody, there are always the end pieces, which are more cooked through. As soon as your thermometer hits the mark, pull the roast and set it aside, covered, for at least 10 minutes, or as long as it takes to put your side dishes together.
For dramatic presentation, you could bring out the whole hunk of meat—but that creates a 1950s patriarch vibe, as someone has to carve the thing while everyone looks on. We find it easier to slice in the kitchen, arranging the pieces on a platter (rarer to one side, better done to the other) and ladling the pan juices over the top. Pass the remaining sauce in a separate bowl, as people will almost certainly want a heavier dose of the rich pomegranate magic.
Note: We’re lucky to live in perhaps the best neighborhood in the United States for lamb—Astoria’s Greek and halal butchers are practically stacked floor to ceiling with gorgeous, tasty little carcasses. But if you can’t get a whole leg (or are dealing with a smaller crowd), you can use lamb shoulder chops. Or if a superior pork roast comes easier to you, go ahead and use that—the result is a lot heartier, but also tasty. Beef will even work, though the flavor is just not as distinctly springy.
You know how when you learn a new word—in English, or in another language—and suddenly you hear it everywhere? It was like that for Zora with Salzburger nockerl. She read about this fluffy-but-simple dessert in Gourmet, and the next thing she knew, it was on every restaurant menu she saw, and bloggers were describing heavenly trips to the Alps and the tasty soufflé-ish thing they ate in front of the ski lodge fire. It’s a genius concoction that makes it seem like you cared a lot, but really you just whipped up some egg whites and cracked open a jam jar. It should really be called Salzburger knock-’em-dead-erl.
This recipe will serve six people generously and eight more daintily, but after that, you need to double the recipe. And if you do that, you need to prep it in two separate batches, as the egg whites will get too big for a standard-size mixing bowl.
5 large eggs
¼ cup heavy cream
¼ cup berry or apricot jam, or passion fruit curd (page 98)
½ teaspoon salt
½ cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Confectioners’ sugar, for garnish (optional)
Preheat the oven to 400°F. Separate the eggs—this is most easily done when they’re still cold, and you simply crack the egg into your hand and let the white run through your fingers directly into a large mixing bowl. (You can also slowly tip the egg between the two shell halves.) Put 3 yolks in a smaller bowl (use the remaining 2 yolks for Passion Fruit Curd, page 98) and set these and the whites aside to come to room temperature. Pour the cream in the bottom of a 9-inch pie plate and tilt to spread it all over the bottom. With a small spoon, dab the jam all over the pie plate too. And resist the temptation to add more than the requisite amount. Contrary to all cooking logic, more jam does not make it better—believe us, we’ve tried.
In a large bowl, beat the egg whites and salt on high speed until foamy. With the mixer running, scatter sugar slowly over the egg whites. You may get impatient by the end—that’s OK, so long as the egg whites are nice and glossy and have stiff peaks when you’re done. Turn off the mixer and remove the beaters. Scatter the flour over and fold it in. In a smaller bowl, beat the egg yolks and vanilla together, just until foamy, then fold that quickly into the egg whites too. Don’t get too compulsive about mixing it all together, or you’ll deflate the whites—it’s fine to have some yellow streaky bits.
Now for the fun part: With a big spatula, blob the eggs into the pie plate. Style as desired. Does your Salzburger nockerl rock a Mohawk, perhaps? Or does it have big eighties bangs? Or maybe cute little spikes all over? Stick your coiffed confection in the oven and bake for about 13 minutes, until the egg whites are nicely browned. (If you got a little carried away with the styling, the tips may get quite dark brown. That’s fine—someone at the table will like those little burnt-sugar bits.) Be careful not to bang the fluffy thing down on the counter when you pull it from the oven; serve shortly after, with a dusting of confectioners’ sugar, if you like.
The standard Salzburger nockerl recipe leaves you with a couple of extra egg yolks. Don’t let them go to waste. Whip up a batch of this knockout-delicious stuff to dab in the pie plate, along with or instead of your jam; the rest (it makes about 1 cup) you can spread on toast or just eat with a spoon. (Look for passion fruit pulp frozen in flat packs, from brands like Goya—it can also be labeled maracuya or parcha .)
Makes about 1 cup
¾ cup passion fruit pulp (half a 14-ounce frozen pack)
2 large egg yolks
5 tablespoons granulated sugar
5 tablespoons butter
In a heavy nonreactive saucepan, melt the passion fruit pulp (if frozen) and boil it down to 1/3 cup. While it’s boiling, whisk the egg yolks with a fork until frothy. When the passion fruit has reduced, stir in the sugar and a pinch of salt, just till dissolved, and turn the heat to low. Spoon a small amount of the hot passion fruit into the egg yolks and stir vigorously. Repeat a few times, until the yolks are somewhat warmed, then pour the whole mixture slowly into the saucepan, stirring constantly. Turn the heat up to medium and continue stirring. As soon as the mixture thickens and starts to hold its shape in the bottom of the pan—only 1 or 2 minutes, though it depends on the weight of your pan—remove the pan from the heat and whisk in the butter, 1 tablespoon at a time. The curd keeps for a couple of weeks in the fridge—as if.