Greek Recipes with May Lerios: Magiritsa (or Mageritsa)

In the tradition of the Greek Orthodox Church, magiritsa (or mageritsa) is served following the late-night anastassi [resurrection] service. The service starts around 11:30p on Holy Saturday, celebrates the resurrection of Jesus at midnight, and ends around 2am on Pasha [Easter Sunday] by the offering of communion to end the 40-day fast of lent. You read right: the soup is served around 2:30a on Easter Sunday, when the family returns from church. That is, in fact, a reasonable thing to do because it follows a 24-hour liquid-only diet, and most people have a hard time falling asleep on a very empty stomach (despite the droning lullaby of the chants during the service).

Magiritsa usually contains the "less desirable" parts of a lamb (organ meats, intestines, the head, etc.). These items are a natural byproduct of the main Pasha meal later on the same day, which is a lamb (see the Pashalino Arni recipe). However, it is difficult to find these items in a regular grocery store. So this recipe uses lamb shanks in their place. It is also made using a crockpot, thereby enabling the family cook to attend the service while the meal is safely cooking away on the slow-cooker.

For 6-8 people

(Click on the thumbnail for a larger photo)

Assuming that the family is attending the late-night service, it is best to start preparing the dish at about 3p or 4p in the afternoon of Holy Saturday.

In a large skillet (cast iron is best), place

Brown the shanks over medium heat. When the shanks are browned on all sides, transfer them to a large (4-6 quart) crockpot. Do not wash the skillet just yet. Add into the crockpot

For the next step, you need

You can either place the onions and scallions in the crockpot directly, or, for extra flavor, brown them in the leftover olive oil and lamb fat in the skillet (that's why you shouldn't wash the skillet too soon), and then add them to the crockpot.

Turn the crockpot on hi heat, and let cook for 5 hours. After this time has passed (around 8p or 9p), remove the lamb shanks from the crockpot carefully (they're hot), remove the meat from the bones, and cut the meat into smaller pieces. Then, add the meat back into the crockpot along with

Turn the crockpot on low heat, and let simmer for another 5 hours. If you are attending the service, leave it simmering while you are out.

Before serving the magiritsa, mix in a bowl

Mix the egg and lemon until frothy, and slowly pour 1-2 cups of the hot magiritsa soup into the egg mixture while stirring. Then, pour this entire mixture into the crockpot of magiritsa while stirring continuously. This pouring back-and-forth may seem odd: the intent is to dilute the egg/lemon mix and slowly raise its temperature first, and then mix it into the hot pot. If you just drop the egg/lemon mix into the pot, the egg will cook as soon as it comes in contact with the main dish, producing patterns of cooked egg as in egg drop soup (which is delicious, but it's not magiritsa).

Serve each bowl with a slice of sweet French bread, or Pugliese, or Ciabatta, or toasted Afgan flat-bread; and pepper, so that your guests can season their portion to their taste.

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