Last fall, my husband and I were fortunate enough to take a weeklong cruise along the Dalmatian coast to the island of Corfu, then around the tip of Italy. The Greek isle turned out to be one of my favorite ports of call. As usual, the food got my attention. A small group of us decided to tour the center of Corfu's main town and to eat lunch in one of the many cafes that line its streets.
The menu, all in Greek, was indecipherable, but fortunately our waiter helped. When I couldn't make up my mind about what to order, he suggested one of the restaurant's specialties - lamb and vegetables baked in parchment.
When our server saw the delight on my face, he shared the recipe. At home, it took several tries before I figured out the amounts of the various ingredients and got the timing right. Once that was done, I realized how practical this dish would be for entertaining.
After the parchment packages are filled and tied, they go into the oven for two hours of totally unattended baking. That gives me plenty of time to prepare a classic Greek salad, to cook rice or couscous as a side, and to set out a crusty loaf of peasant bread for dipping in the dish's delicious juices.
Betty Rosbottom writes for Tribune Media Services.
Corfu Lamb and Vegetables Baked in Parchment
1 1/2 pounds boneless leg of lamb, trimmed of excess fat and cut into 1-inch cubes
2 medium carrots, peeled and cut on the diagonal into 1/2 -inch slices
1/2 medium onion, peeled and cut into 8 wedges
4 small red-skin potatoes (1 1/2 ounces each), scrubbed, but unpeeled, cut into 1/2 -inch wedges
1 medium tomato, halved lengthwise and cut into 1/2 -inch wedges
1 medium red pepper, halved with seeds and membranes removed, and halves cut into 1-inch pieces
8 large garlic cloves, peeled
1/4 cup baby spinach leaves
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon dried, crushed rosemary
1 teaspoon kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
8 tablespoons olive oil
Fresh rosemary sprigs, for garnish (optional)
Four 15-inch squares of parchment paper (see note)
Arrange a rack at center position and preheat the oven to 300 degrees.
Place the four parchment squares on a work surface. Place a fourth of the lamb cubes in the center of each square. Scatter one-fourth of the carrots, onion, potatoes, tomatoes, red pepper and garlic cloves over the meat, then tuck a fourth of the spinach leaves into each mixture. Sprinkle the lamb and vegetables on each square with 1/4 teaspoon oregano, 1/4 teaspoon rosemary, 1/4 teaspoon salt and several grinds of black pepper, then drizzle each portion with 2 tablespoons of olive oil.
Pull the edges of each parchment square together to make a pouch, then tie tightly with string. Place pouches on a rimmed baking sheet and bake for 2 hours.
Remove baking sheet from the oven and let pouches cool 5 minutes. Transfer each parchment pouch to a dinner plate or to a shallow soup bowl. To eat, untie the string and spread open the paper. Garnish each serving with 1 or 2 rosemary sprigs if desired.
Note: Buy parchment paper that is 15 inches wide for cutting the squares.
Note: The parchment pouches can be filled and tied 2 hours ahead. Refrigerate and bring to room temperature 30 minutes before baking.
Per serving: 614 calories, 35 grams protein, 45 grams fat, 12 grams saturated fat, 19 grams carbohydrate, 4 grams fiber, 106 milligrams cholesterol, 604 milligrams sodium.
Recipe analysis provided by registered dietitian Jodie Shield.