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X Italian Meat Dishes
Grilled Lamb Chops
Originated from: North America
Occasion: Easter Sunday and any other time
Contributed by: Mary Melfi (her mother's recipe)

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6 lamb chops

For marinade:

1/4 cup white wine
1/2 cup lemon juice
1/2 cup olive oil
Fresh parsley (uncut)
2 teaspoons dried rosemary
2 teaspoons dried oregano
6 garlic cloves, chopped
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper


Mix marinade.

Marinate the meat for four to six hours. Remove parsley.

Grill on medium heat.


While most second-generation Italian-Canadians assume (I certainly did!) that grilled lamb is (and always was!) the traditional dish served by Italians on Easter Sunday, this is not so! Apparently, prior to World War II, yes, lamb was served on Easter Sunday, but it was stewed in tomato sauce or it was baked with potatoes in a special cooking utensil called a "fornicella" that had a special lid called a "cop'". Many "fornicella" pans were round and made of copper; they came with over-sized lids that were made of iron. Unlike a frying pan or a cauldron, this "fornicella" with its over-sized "cop'" not only got heat from the burning embers from the bottom of the pan, but it also got heat from the top (Apparently, a fire had to burn for two hours prior to its embers being used for baking purposes). Basically, the "fornicella" with the "cop'" was totally surrounded in hot embers, giving out a slow and consistent heat. For the Easter meal the lamb chops were placed at the bottom of the "fornicella" and slices of thin potatoes were placed on top. However, only the well-to-do could afford to serve "baked lamb chops" for Easter. The majority of people opted for cheaper cuts of lamb which were then stewed. The poor generally served "triccine" (liver and other lamb organs wrapped in intenstines) on Easter Sunday, while the poorest of the poor settled for pasta with beans. Nonetheless, not even the well-to-do in Southern Italy grilled their meat prior to World War II as they did not have access to the proper equipment. According to my aunt (Rosina Melfi) households in Molise did have thin triangular grills that they toasted bread on and/or thin fresh pork belly slices, but the grills were not well-liked. The triangular grills easily burned the bread and/or pork and so most people avoided their use. In fact, it seems many first-generation Italian-Canadians did not serve grilled lamp chops on Easter Sunday until the early 1970s. Before that they either stewed the meat or baked it with potatoes in the oven. In the 1970s charcoal grills became very popular in North America and that is when Italians started to grill their meat. Also, North Americans of Italian origin may have been influenced by their Greek neighbors who traditionally grilled their lamb for the Easter holidays. In any case, Italians have come to love their grilled meats and whether or not lamb chops were grilled prior to World War II is a non-issue. Nowadays, of course, Italians living in a united Europe also grill their meats for Easter or whenever the mood strikes. There is no such thing as a "special occasion" any more.... Photo: by the contributor.

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