In my ideal world, you don’t need an excuse to roast a leg of lamb. But let’s face it, most of us aren’t coming home from work, by way of the butcher, on a random Tuesday and popping one in the oven (if you are, please email me; I would very much like to come to your house for dinner). Leg of lamb is special occasion territory, and whether that occasion happens to be a holiday (Passover and Easter are coming up), or just a nice spring Saturday with six to eight people that you like, it’s a dish worth cooking and celebrating. Hence today’s newsletter.
A quick plug for lamb: Even though it’s infinitely less popular than beef or pork, it’s at least as flavorful (often more so), just as versatile, and on average is treated a hell of a lot better on the farm. And leg of lamb is particularly appealing: It’s small enough to cook and serve whole without having to worry about inviting 25 people or having massive amounts of leftovers, roasting it is not at all laborious, and because of its conical shape, you’ll end up with some very rare meat (at the thickest part, what you might call the upper thigh), some medium-rare meat just below that and some medium-well meat (at the narrowest part and, obviously, at the extreme edges). So, as long as your guests aren’t vegetarians, there’s something for everyone.
The simplest way to roast a leg of lamb is to drizzle it with olive oil and sprinkle it with salt and pepper. The three recipes here go a few steps beyond that (it’s a special occasion, remember), but none of them is onerous. The first is rubbed with a Moroccan spice blend and dry-roasted, which will make your kitchen smell better that you can possibly imagine. The second is marinated in yogurt, mint, cardamom, and orange zest; let it sit for a bit so those flavors seep down into the meat. The last version is slathered with a paste of dill, parsley, garlic and anchovies (optional, but incredible) that bears some resemblance to classic pesto. Once the lamb is cooked, you use the rendered herby fat to brown some breadcrumbs and sauté some spinach, and you will not be sad you did.
Carving a leg of lamb isn’t difficult, but there’s a trick to it, which you can check out in this video. A beautiful, delicious, impressive roast that’s easy to cook and easy to carve? There’s something worth celebrating.
You can barely believe how good your kitchen will smell when this thing is in the oven. The blend of cinnamon, cumin, coriander, paprika and ginger gives the lamb a deep and (dare I say) mysterious flavor, and a dark, almost mahogany exterior. Just keep an eye on the spices so they don’t burn.
This super flavorful marinade of yogurt, mint, orange zest and cardamom keeps the surface of the lamb from drying out, and gives it a great crust when you roast it. This doesn’t really need any sauce, but if you have extra (non-lamb-y) marinade going begging, you can certainly feel free to serve a few dollops on the side.
This is spring on a plate: leg of lamb slathered in a pesto-like concoction of dill, parsley, garlic and anchovies, served over a heaping pile of sautéed spinach. And the sleeper hit of the dish? Coarse breadcrumbs cooked in the rendered lamb fat until golden brown and crunchy.
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Questions, comments, brilliant suggestions? Just want to share the recipe for your grandma's potato salad, or your mom's meatloaf, or your uncle Drew's three-day 100-percent rye loaf (yes, please)? Don't hesitate to reach out anytime.