No meal says "spring" quite like roast leg of young lamb, so what better main course could there be at Easter's dinner table? For me, nothing else will do. Raised and fed properly, lamb will be delicately flavored, slightly grassy and sweet.
When your butcher removes the bone and rolls the roast for you, leg of lamb makes one of the most beautiful and delectable presentations ever. Season the meat with garlic and herbs to highlight its vegetal flavors. Here I have used rosemary, but you may wish to experiment with either fresh thyme or even lavender.
I have also decided not to waste the pan juices that the lamb was baked in and made a pan sauce using red wine and beef stock. Reduce and add a little fresh rosemary at the end and you have the perfect complement to your lamb dinner.
Roast Boneless Leg of Lamb with Rosemary Pan Sauce
6-pound boneless leg of lamb, rolled and tied
1 large or 2 small garlic cloves, smashed and roughly chopped
2 teaspoons fresh rosemary, finely chopped
zest of 1/2 small lemon
2 tablespoons olive oil
kosher salt, freshly ground black pepper
1 1/2 cups beef stock or broth
1/2 cup red wine, such as a merlot or cabernet sauvignon
additional rosemary leaves
1 tablespoon butter, optional
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.
1. Remove the lamb roast from the refrigerator and allow it to come to room temperature.
2. Mix the roughly chopped garlic, chopped rosemary, lemon zest and olive oil together in a small bowl.
3. Place the lamb roast fat side up in an ovenproof skillet or roasting pan large enough to accommodate it. Using your hands, rub the herb-garlic mixture over the top, sides, and bottom of the roast. Season generously with ground black pepper and a large pinch of salt. Place the roast in the preheated oven and bake for 15 minutes.
4. After 15 minutes, reduce the heat to 350 degrees and continue roasting for 60 more minutes. After the hour is up, remove the pan from the oven and test the roast for its internal temperature using a meat thermometer. You want an internal temperature of 140 degrees for perfectly pink lamb. If the thermometer does not yet register 140 degrees, return the lamb to the oven and continue to test the temperature every 10 or 15 minutes. (Note: Actual oven temperatures can vary and affect the heating time.)
5. When the internal temperature reads 140 degrees, remove the roasting pan from the oven. Lift the roast from the pan to a carving board. Loosely tent the roast with foil and let it rest before carving, about 15 or 20 minutes. Note: While resting, the internal temperature of the lamb may continue to climb a bit, reaching about 145 degrees, and this is fine.
6. While the meat rests, begin the pan sauce. Remove all but 1 tablespoon of fat from the roasting pan. Place the pan on the stove top and turn the heat to medium. Deglaze pan with wine, scraping up all the browned bits on the bottom of the skillet as you stir.
7. Once deglazed, add the broth. Boil the sauce over medium-high heat to reduce it by about two-thirds. When thickened slightly, add the additional rosemary leaves and stir them into the sauce. Stir in a tablespoon of butter if you like a richer sauce.
8. Remove the pan from the heat and tip the sauce into a gravy boat for pouring over carved slices of lamb on the dinner plates.
Note: the broth and wine amounts may be doubled (3 cups broth, 1 cup wine) and then reduced as described above, if a larger amount of pan sauce is desired.
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Recipe courtesy of Jane Ward, Amesbury resident, author and blogger of Food & Fiction, 2012.