Mention Burgos and most Spaniard’s mouths begin to water at the thought of the infamous lamb made there. Considered to be the best in Spain, the local lamb, known as Lechazo, are suckling lamb from the Churra, Castellana or Ojalada breeds. Because the Lechazo is such a special lamb product, they are actually protected by an Indication of Geographic Protection designation -Association of Assadores de Lechazo de Castilla y Leon. The tradition and skill involved in perfectly roasting this suckling lamb is an esteemed ability that is shared by the members of the Roasters Association of Lechazo from Castile-Leon, who are located all over the country. So if you get to dine in one of their restaurants, you know there will be some seriously good eating!
The method of cooking for these young lambs is slow roasting them in a wood fired oven. The low, slow heat yields an incredibly tender meat that is very succulent and exceedingly delicious. If you are passing through the region of Castilla y Leon for any reason, you must try some of this lamb. The best part? It’s perfectly acceptable to eat it with your hands- the meat closest to the bone just begs to be sucked off.
While in Burgos, my Camino friends and I enjoyed a fabulously carnivorous meal at Restaurant Ricon de Espana just off the main square. We also enjoyed a few bottles of the Tempranillo seen here. Oh, and dessert? It got a thumbs up.
And while you are in Burgos, be sure to stop into the cathedral. Even if you are not religious, it’s a massive, magnificent Gothic-style building. Declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1984, it is the only Spanish cathedral that has this distinction independently without being joined to the historic center of the city. You can spend hours just wandering around the inside looking at all the stone carvings and beautiful relics.
Now, I don’t have a wood fired oven…yet. (It’s on the list!) But you can easily recreate the tenderness of this meat in your home oven or for that wood fired taste, you can use your grill. The recipe here is for using your oven for the slow roasting. It takes some time so pop a cork and sit back and relax with a good book. Dinner will be served “soon”.
- 11-15lb Suckling Lamb (Also called a Spring Lamb, no more than 4-6 months old. Bone-in. (Also can use a leg or shoulder))
- 5-8 cloves Garlic (Peeled and smashed into a paste)
- 3 large sprigs Thyme (Leaves chopped and combined with the garlic paste above)
- Salt (To season)
- Olive Oil (To drizzle)
- Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.
- Rinse the lamb and pat dry with a paper towel. Cut into manageable pieces. Rub the garlic and thyme paste all over each piece of the lamb. Place in a large oven proof dish. In Spain, they use a clay dish- so if you have one in your cupboard, now is the perfect chance to use it! Season each piece with salt and drizzle with olive oil. In the bottom of the pan add a bit of water- no more than ½".
- Place the lamb in the hot oven. After 15-20 minutes, or once the lamb is a nice golden color, reduce the heat to 325 degrees F. Roast for 1 hour.
- At this time, remove the lamb from the oven and turn each piece over. Add some more water (just a little!) if needed so as not to totally dry out the pan. You basically want to steam around the meat until the last few minutes of cooking. Return the lamb back into the oven to continue roasting.
- Once the lamb has reached a desired internal temperature, it is ready to serve. For medium rare meat the thermometer should read 120 degrees F. For medium well, 145 degrees F is the magic number. The meat should be tender and flake easily from the bone with a fork.
- Serve with a rich, velvety red wine like a Rioja, Priorat, Zinfandel, or Cabernet Sauvignon. (I'd go with one of the first two, keeping with the Spanish theme- but that's just my opinion!)
- Serve with a simple salad or roasted potatoes. This is truly a carnivore's delight.