The college’s culinary program dean, Chef Costa Magoulas, accepted an invitation by the News-Journal to share ideas for Easter menu choices and preparation. For a bit of Easter and culinary history, read the chef’s notes below and enjoy his recipes linked at the bottom of the page, below the photos.
Lamb history and cooking tips
By Costa Magoulas
I decided to cook an Easter lamb dinner with a Mediterranean flavor. Very traditional. Lamb is considered the food of choice around the Christian world for Easter. The history is based in the book of Genesis, when God asked Jacob to sacrifice his son and gave Jacob a lamb to sacrifice instead.
Since the 7th century, Catholic popes have traditionally had lamb as part of their Easter dinner. In Greece, Easter is the most important holiday and every family roasts the Pasha (Easter) lamb. Lamb was introduced to North America by the Spanish in 1519 by Cortez. Lamb was imported from New Zealand to the U.S. in the early 1950s; it had a very strong flavor, which is why people started eating mint jell to soften the taste.
Today Australian lamb is very popular. It is raised on grass and finished on grain, which gives it a milder flavor. I prefer domestic USDA lamb. The flavor is almost beef like and the meat-to-bone ration is greater. The legs are fully rounded and provide more meat. Spring lamb is 4 months old, expensive and hard to get. Regular lamb is 6-8 months old; the flavor is mild; and the meat is tender. Lamb one year or older is considered mutton and has a gamey, strong flavor.
A tip to chefs in your house: Don’t over-cook! Most people over-cook lamb, causing it to be dry and less flavorful. It should be cooked to an internal temperature of 140ᵒF, a little pink. Enjoy your feast!
(March 25, 2013)