In my post about Pag cheese a few years ago, I introduced you to Croatia’s Pag Island, home to an autochthonous breed of sheep whose population far exceeds that of the human locals and whose milk is used to make the famous Paški sir. But these sheep are also praised for their meat, and I got to taste it on several occasions, usually in simple preparations, just grilled with vegetables.
Some restaurants do create more elaborate dishes, such as Boškinac, whose Pag Island lamb trio serves as inspiration for this recipe. Opened in 2003, Boškinac started as a winery, then added a restaurant and a hotel. The chef followed what seems to be a classic path among ambitious Croatian professionals, taking internships at Michelin-starred establishments in Western Europe off-season, and coming back home in the summer to put his new experience into practice and refine his personal style. Eventually, the restaurant was awarded its very own Michelin star in 2020. I should also mention that the hotel serves a fantastic breakfast – dare I say, perhaps the best I’ve ever had.
While my visit predates the red guide’s accolade, Boškinac was already offering a menu focused on local ingredients, including the famous Pag sheep. Lamb made its first appearance in an amuse-bouche of meatball tempura with a black olive sponge and olive oil foam. Then came a lamb carpaccio, rolled and stuffed with Fregola Sarda pasta and red pepper, accompanied by balsamic “caviar” and finally rosemary powder and a basil sauce. Third, the lamb trio consisted of slow-cooked shoulder, belly, and leg, served with a pea purée, a carrot purée, and a busy mix of green vegetables – fava beans, broccoli, zucchini, and sea beans.
My lamb trio reuses ideas from all three of those dishes: the meatball tempura, the use of mixed herbs, the slow-cooked meat, the pea purée, and the green vegetables. Yet the result is quite different. I showcase more diverse lamb preparations on a single plate: a roasted lamb chop, a fried meatball, and stewed shoulder. I also keep a tighter flavor profile, limiting my spring vegetables to only peas and asparagus, and my herbs to a mix of parsley, tarragon, and mint used across the many elements of the dish.
Like most trios, this is a pretty complex recipe. But it’s also a good example of how the sous-vide method can work as a foodie’s microwave to make your life easier. Before serving, just dump your pouches into a water bath, and you don’t have to worry about having everything ready and warm at the same time.
Pag Lamb Trio with Spring Vegetables
Yields 4 servings
Total preparation: 9 hours
Active preparation: 1 hour 45 minutes
Slow-cooked lamb shoulder
20 g mint leaves, chopped
15 g parsley, chopped
10 g tarragon, chopped
30 g scallion greens, thinly sliced
2 g finely grated lemon zest
15 g peeled garlic cloves
15 g lemon juice
8 g salt
50 g white wine
750 g boneless lamb shoulder, in one piece
canola oil spray
50 g scallion whites, thinly sliced
40 g butter
- In a blender or food processor, blitz 3/4 of the mint, parsley, tarragon, scallion greens, and lemon zest with all of the garlic, lemon juice, salt, and wine. Transfer this sauce mixture to a bowl, and coat the lamb in it.
- Spray a pot with canola oil, add the lamb with the sauce, and cover with a lid. Cook in a 100 C / 212 F oven for about 5 1/2 hours, until the meat is very tender. Do not flip or otherwise touch the meat. Let cool for 30 minutes.
- Cut the lamb into 4 pieces and reserve. Transfer the sauce to a plastic container, freeze for about 30 minutes, then remove and discard the frozen fat.
- Meanwhile, in a small saucepan over medium heat, cook the scallion whites in 1/4 of the butter until soft. Reserve.
- Reduce the degreased sauce to 75 g in a saucepan over medium-high heat, then whisk in the remaining butter.
- Transfer the lamb, cooked scallion whites, and sauce to a sous-vide pouch. Top with the remaining mint, parsley, tarragon, scallion greens, and lemon zest. Vacuum-seal and reserve. The meat can be kept in the refrigerator for a couple of days.
220 g trimmed and peeled green asparagus stems, medium dice
15 g butter
100 g frozen green peas
65 g vegetable stock
6 g parsley, chopped
6 g mint, chopped
3 g tarragon, chopped
- Sauté the diced asparagus in the butter in a small saucepan over medium heat for a couple minutes, stirring regularly. Add the peas and stock, then cook for 3-4 minutes, until tender.
- Transfer to a blender, add the parsley, mint, and tarragon, and blend on high speed until smooth. Pass the purée through a chinois, then let cool and reserve.
Blanched spring vegetables
75 g green asparagus spears
75 g frozen green peas
15 g butter
- Blanch the asparagus in salted boiling water until just cooked. Drain, then cool in a bowl filled with iced water.
- Transfer the asparagus to a sous-vide pouch, add the peas and butter, season with salt, and vacuum-seal. Reserve in the refrigerator.
45 g peeled carrot, grated
45 g peeled onion, small dice
15 g olive oil
150 g ground lamb
18 g egg, beaten
1.8 g salt
0.2 g black pepper, ground
9 g panko breadcrumbs
4.5 g parsley, chopped
- In a small saucepan over medium heat, sauté the carrot and onion in the olive oil until soft, stirring regularly. Transfer to a small container and let cool.
- In a bowl, combine the cooked vegetables, ground lamb, egg, salt, pepper, panko breadcrumbs, and parsley. Mix with a fork, then shape into 8 balls of 25 g each. Reserve on a plate in the refrigerator.
Roasted rack of lamb
rack of 4 large lamb chops, about 450 g
10 g canola oil
black pepper, ground
- Season the meat with salt on all sides. In a pan over high heat, sear the rack of lamb, fat side down, in the canola oil. Cook until golden brown, then flip and cook for another minute.
- Season the lamb with black pepper and transfer the whole pan to a 120 C / 250 F oven. Cook the lamb to an internal temperature of 55 C / 130 F, for about 40 minutes.
- While the lamb rack is cooking, proceed with assembly immediately.
slow-cooked lamb shoulder
blanched spring vegetables
canola oil, for deep-frying
30 g panko breadcrumbs
roasted rack of lamb
- Reheat the lamb shoulder and spring vegetables in a 60 C / 140 F water bath. Count about 30 minutes for the meat and 10 minutes for the vegetables, but you can keep them in a bit longer, until you’re ready.
- Heat the canola oil to 150 C / 300 F in a deep fryer or a large pot (you need a depth of at least 10 cm of oil).
- Roll the meatballs in panko breadcrumbs, pressing with your fingers to make them stick. Deep-fry to an internal temperature of 55 C / 130 F, then drain on paper towels.
- After letting the rack of lamb rest for a few minutes, cut into 4 chops.
- Reheat the asparagus-pea purée in the microwave.
- Divide the asparagus-pea purée between 4 bowls. To each bowl, add a piece of lamb shoulder with some sauce, rest a lamb chop against it, and place two lamb meatballs alongside. Add the spring vegetables, and serve.