Sunday, August 14, 2011

Roasted Leg of Lamb [Zack]

The first time I learned to cook a whole leg of lamb was with my uncle in Jacksonville FL. This was during one of our frequent cooking hangout sessions where he taught me some of his cool tricks (while drinking wine of course). I had never roasted large piece of meat before besides the occasional chicken, so I was excited to understand how it all worked. Tom (of course) took it a full step further and we grilled it.  It added a great flavor and was interesting to see how you can grill using indirect heat.

One of the techniques Tom showed me was to make small garlic clove-size holes in the meat using a paring knife and shoving the cloves down in there. This really maximizes the flavor in the meat. It was an “aha!” moment for me and I had one of those feelings like “why didn’t I think of that??” Kinda like the beer helmet.

Since I currently don't have a grill, I referred to my good friend Jamie Oliver. In one of his episodes, he roasts a leg of lamb on the grated oven rack and then places all of his vegetables on a try below it.  This allows you to utilize all of the juice drippings to make flavorful veggies, but also insures that there will be a nice crust all around the leg instead of having a steamed bottom part.


Start by bashing up some herbs. You can use any strong herb with lamb such as thyme, rosemary, tarragon, or oregano to compliment the meat. Or you can use a combination of them. Take a rolling pin and bruise the herbs on a cutting board (or in a mortar and pestle).

Then hit the garlic once to crush it with the same instrument and peal the skin off. Add it all into a bowl with some hot pepper flakes and add in a few glugs of olive oil. Let the flavors combine for a while and start working on the lamb leg.

Next, get your lamb leg out and make evenly-spaced 1 inch deep holes in meaty parts of the leg. 

Salt and pepper the leg. Take your olive oil, herb, and garlic mixture and rub it all over the leg. Make sure to push the garlic cloves down into the holes you made - try to get some rosemary in there too. 

Bag the leg up and let it sit for a while in the fridge to marinate, up to a few days. I didn’t leave it for very long and it was still amazing. 

Start preparing your vegetables by boiling some quartered potatoes for 15 minutes. Drain them and scuff them up in the colander so they grab more juice (kinda like the fork indentations in gnocchi). Cut a few tomatoes in half and quarter some large red onions. Place all of these in a baking dish and toss with a small bit of olive oil so they don’t stick to the bottom of your baking dish.

Pre-heat your oven to 400F / 200C.  30-45 minutes before you want to start cooking the lamb leg, take it out of the fridge so it can come to room temperature.  Otherwise, it will not cook evenly.  Place your baking dish of vegetables on the bottom rack and put the lamb leg on the grate in the middle of the oven.

Cook for about an hour and 15 minutes (for medium-rare) until the leg looks nicely browned and the veggies have good color.

Let the lamb rest for about 20 minutes loosely covered and carve and serve.  

1 large 4 lb bone-in lamb leg
Fresh rosemary (or other herbs such as fresh oregano, thyme, or tarragon)
Hot pepper flakes to taste (AKA a lot)
~6T of olive oil
½ head garlic

Potatoes, quartered and boiled for 10 minutes (any type is fine)
Halved tomatoes
Quartered red onions

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