April Showers bring May flowers, but April also brings the long tradition of enjoying Lamb. For centuries, lamb has been an Easter staple, a symbolic food for many. Yet lamb is often overshadowed by its cousin, the ham. There are some who simply enjoy the taste or ease of preparing a ham, whether it be glazed, cured, or even spiced and roasted, while there are those who are just unfamiliar with or unsure about how to cook lamb.
Lamb can be seasoned and prepared in countless ways, and when done right can be some of the tastiest, most tender meat ever eaten. Let’s walk through preparing a leg of lamb.
First things first, to get the best quality, going to a local specialty meat or butcher shop to select a bone-in or boneless leg of lamb is the best option. Picking the correct amount is often a question most people don’t have the answer to. Figure on how many people will be eating, then calculate using the recommendation of half a pound of meat per person for boneless or three-quarters of a pound per person for bone-in. [This is the standard serving size recommendation for most types of meat].
Once the size leg of lamb is figured out, there is the option to ask to either have the fat trimmed or leave all the fat as-is. If you want to trim the fat, take off the papery film or “Fell” as it’s called, from the outside. To get rid of the gamy flavor that some don’t prefer, trim off the visible fat beneath, that’s where much of the gaminess comes from.
Another option for minimizing that gaminess is to buy domestic. Lamb sold in the United States is known for coming from three main countries. The United States, Australia, and New Zealand. Lamb from the U.S. is often the least gamy and more tender due to it typically being fed grain along with grass. Oceania raised lambs are almost purely grass-fed. Flavor aside, domestic lamb also tends to be fresh, While, depending on the supplier, Imported lamb has a very real chance of having been frozen at some point in time.
The leg of lamb needs to be seasoned before being roasted. There are several ways, but in this article, I’m going to focus on one of the most traditional recipes. As I covered in my last article to properly cook meat (red meats), it should be allowed to reach room temperature for 30 minutes to an hour. While the leg of lamb is sitting out getting to temperature, this time can be used to prepare and apply our seasoning.
Leg of lamb
(This recipe is measured for five pounds, adjust amount needed to the amount of meat bought).
3 cloves of fresh garlic
1 tablespoon of sea salt, (medium or course ground)
1.5 tablespoons of fresh rosemary
.5 teaspoon of black pepper
1/3 cup of red wine
Take the cloves of garlic and mince them into very small pieces using a sharp kitchen knife. Next, take the sea salt and mix it into the minced garlic. Using a large metal spoon mash them into as close to a paste as possible. Pick off the rosemary leaves until you get 1.5 tablespoons, (You do not want to use the stem), chop the rosemary into smaller pieces, just enough to break up the leaves. Mix the paste with the pepper and rosemary. Rub this mixture all over the meat until evenly coated.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. When the roast is at room temp, place in the oven for 90 minutes or until the center is 130 degrees (make sure NOT to place the thermometer on the bone). Once the roast is at the right temperature, take out of the oven and allow it to rest for 15 to 20 minutes.
While the roast is resting, it is time to deglaze the roasting pan. Place the wine in a pan with any drippings from the roast over medium high heat, raise to a light boil, while the wine is lightly boiling take a spoon or spatula and scrape the brown pieces so as not to burn them. Take the wine off the heat about 2 minutes after the boiling happens. Drizzle over the roast and the leg of lamb roast is ready to carve and serve. Pair with a Mint Jelly for a true authentic lamb experience.
For individual plating or a more attractive serving option, rack of lamb is a popular choice. There are two ways to order rack of lamb or chops, by the bone or whole rack (eight bones). If ordered whole, a simple method to prepare it is, “Sear-&-Roast.”
Here is a simple recipe that takes little effort and preparation, but will end in a very tasty dish.
Rack of lamb (whole)
pinch of salt
pinch of pepper
1 Tablespoon of Dijon mustard
.5 cup of breadcrumbs (plain or Italian seasoned)
1 tablespoon fresh rosemary
1 tablespoon fresh garlic
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Put a pan on the stove on medium-high to high heat. Coat the rack lightly with olive oil and then in the pan, sear on all sides for about one to two minutes a side. Take out of the pan and place on cutting board, Sprinkle lightly with salt, pepper, and coat with the Dijon mustard. Mix together the rosemary, garlic, and another pinch of pepper, along with the breadcrumbs and 2-3 tablespoons of olive oil. Mix this together and coat the rack with the rosemary and garlic breadcrumbs. Place the rack in a pan in the oven for ten to twelve minutes, checking the internal temp after this time, if 130 degrees, take it out and let rest for 5-7 minutes. Cut between the bones and serve.
Lamb is a long traditioned food for this time of year, and e these recipes and preparation methods are foolproof and fantastic.
Eating is a necessary part of life; we might as well enjoy every bite.