If You Love Lamb, Try Provatina, a Greek Favorite

Lamb chops. Photo by Steven Walling, via Wikimedia Commons

Roasted lamb is well-known as a favorite Greek dish whether it is lamb chops or a whole roasted lamb on the spit. Perhaps less well-known is provatina, or mutton, the grown version of the lamb with a stronger flavor and complexity. Mutton can be enjoyed roasted and cooked in all recipes which call for lamb. Marinating and slow-roasting are the keys since the meat can be tough, but an experienced chef can work wonders with provatina. There are many in Greece who would drive for hours just to enjoy the dish at their favorite restaurant or taverna. Enjoy the following recipe with either mutton or lamb, if mutton is not available in your area. The traditional side dish is roasted potatoes.

Roasted Provatina (Mutton)

3 large garlic cloves

2 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary

2 teaspoons Greek dried oregano

1/2 teaspoon Greek sea salt

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

4 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice (about 2 lemons)

1/3 cup Greek extra virgin olive oil

8 mutton or lamb chops (about 2 pounds)

Place the garlic, rosemary, oregano, salt, and freshly ground pepper in the bowl of a food processor and pulse until finely chopped. Add the lemon juice and the olive oil and process until combined. Place the mutton or lamb chops in a glass or ceramic dish large enough to contain them in a single layer and deep enough to contain the marinade. Pour the marinade over the chops and turn them to coat both sides evenly with the marinade. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator for two hours or up to overnight.

To cook the chops on the grill, prepare your outdoor grill as needed. If using a gas grill, heat to medium high. Remove the marinaded mutton or lamb from the refrigerator and season with salt and pepper to taste and grill to desired doneness- for medium rare grill 4-5 minutes on each side, add an additional 1-2 minutes on each side for medium. If using a meat thermometer, the USDA recommended safe internal temperature for lamb is 165 degrees for medium well. Remove the cooked chops from the grill, place on a platter, tent with aluminum foil, and set aside to rest for ten minutes. Allowing the meat to rest before serving helps keep the chops juicy.

If preferred, the chops can be roasted in the oven. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Place the marinated chops in a baking pan and roast in the oven for 20-30 minutes, turning about halfway through the cooking process. When chops have reached the desired doneness, remove from the oven and tent with foil to rest as mentioned above. Serve with roasted potatoes.

Roasted Potatoes with Rosemary

5-6 medium potatoes, halved or quartered depending on size

4 tablespoons Greek extra virgin olive oil

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

2 large sprigs fresh rosemary or 1 tablespoon dry rosemary

1/2 teaspoon Greek sea salt

Freshly ground pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Place the potatoes in a large roasting pan and toss with the olive oil, lemon juice, rosemary, salt, and pepper until evenly coated. Spread the potatoes out in the pan to form a single layer as much as possible and roast in the preheated oven for about 40 minutes to an hour or until the potatoes are tender, stirring about half way through the cooking process.

The mutton or lamb can also be roasted with the potatoes, just begin roasting the potatoes as above and about half way through the cooking time, place the marinated chops in the pan with the potatoes and continue roasting until desired doneness, as directed above.