Whether you're entertaining at home for the spring holidays or heading out to a family feast, chances are good that there will be tender, iconic lamb on the table, complemented by some green shoots emblematic of the new season.
At the Glen Ellen Star, chef Ari Weiswasser is offering a Whole Roasted Leg of Lamb this spring as one of the restaurant's special, family-style feasts. The dinners may be ordered in advance by parties of six or more.
"We take a whole leg of lamb, roast it in the oven, and serve it with salsa verde," he said. "Since we have a beautiful wood oven, why not enjoy it?"
At the restaurant, which opened last May in downtown Glen Ellen, customers can enjoy the Whole Roasted Leg of Lamb with housemade pita bread, along with a simple salad made with zucchini ribbons or asparagus spears.
As a way to complement the small-plate trend, more restaurants have jumped on the big-plate bandwagon. After all, it's not easy to share a small plate, especially among a table of four or more.
But sharing a big hunk of meat, while passing around platters of side dishes, can promote more intimate bonding at the table.
"It's more communal, and you have to interact more," Weiswasser said. "It's nice to see a big platter, and eating family-style is more hands-on, like a barbecue."
To make a leg of lamb at home, the chef suggests buying a bone-in leg of lamb. Then ask the butcher to take the large bone out but leave the smaller bone at the end, for something to grip.
"We butterfly it and truss it back up," he said. "That makes it easy to slice."
The chef seasons the leg of lamb with salt, pepper and olive oil, then roasts it and serves it with a piquant salsa verde made with basil, parsley, cilantro and mint, plus Dijon mustard, garlic, red wine vinegar and anchovies.
"Anchovy is an umami flavor that complements everything out of the wood oven," he said. "And we finish 99.9 percent of our dishes with vinegar, lemon juice, salt, olive oil and mild chiles."
As a side dish for the roasted leg of lamb, Weiswasser suggests serving some roasted potatoes, finished with Marash chiles from Turkey. The earthy chiles boast a complex flavor and moderate heat.
Then, just roast or grill up some asparagus spears and serve them with a dollop of aioli and some shaved radishes.
To complement your holiday feast, look for a red wine with soft tannins and good acidity.
"We find success pairing our food with Spanish, Argentinean and Chilean varietals, like syrah, malbec and cabernet franc," he said.
Weiswasser, who is married to Erinn Benziger-Weiswasser, sources produce from nearby farms, including the gardens at Benziger Family Winery, where 47 raised beds are already planted with spring produce.
The restaurant will soon be showcasing the gardens' bounty on its rustic menu, from fava beans and artichokes to arugula and asparagus.
The Glen Ellen Star will begin serving lunch for the first time starting April 5, on Fridays through Sundays, and is now open for dinner every day.
For lamb lovers, the restaurant also offers a Moroccan-inspired dish for dinner: Wood Oven Roasted Lamb Meatballs with Couscous, Red Charmoula and Meyer Lemon.