Monday, January 31, 2011

Garlic and Rosemary Leg of Lamb

I love lamb. It's got a distinct but pleasant flavor, and it goes beyond everyday beef, chicken, or pork. It can, however, be pricey. Keep your eyes open for sales and freeze it for future use! This lamb recipe was what our family ate on Christmas morning. It's an easy recipe that you can prepare in advance and pop in the oven when the time comes.

Start out with a boneless leg of lamb. I used a 3-pounder, which is on the smaller side.

It was also rather fatty. In the future, I'll either pick up a larger leg or trim the fat before roasting (maybe both.) 

I coated it in a garlic and rosemary crust. This is really easy (and sort of fun) to make. Just start with some garlic cloves and some dried rosemary.

I intended on using fresh rosemary but I kind of spaced and didn't add it to my grocery list. So I had to use dried.

A good rule of thumb when using dried herbs instead of fresh, or vice versa--if the recipe calls for a teaspoon of dried herbs, use a tablespoon of fresh. Dried herbs have a more concentrated flavor.

I start by very roughly chopping my garlic. Then I add the rosemary and a teaspoon of salt.

The reason I don't add the rosemary right away is that I'll be doing a lot of chopping. And dried rosemary is, well, very dry. The little bits of rosemary have a tendency to richochet around when they're cut. The chopped garlic adds a wet edge for the rosemary to cling to, reducing the ricocheting.

The salt helps bring out the garlic's flavor, and draws out some of the garlic's moisture, which again helps the rosemary stick and makes chopping easier.

I like to chop quite a bit. Then I press the garlic with the flat edge of my knife, to make a sort of rough paste.

Now that your crust is done, it's time to get back to the lamb. Unroll the leg all the way and drizzle with olive oil.

Rub some of your garlic mixture on the inside of the lamb. Don't use it all--you'll want to save some for the outside as well.

Give the inside of the leg a nice salt and peppering.

Now for the fun part--it's time to tie up your lamb leg. You'll need some kitchen twine or string. Measure the length of your lamb leg and cut the string about ten times longer than the length.

Tie the string a couple inches from one end of the lamb, leaving at least an inch on the short edge.

Now shimmy the long part of the string under the lamb.

Cross the long end of your string over itself a couple inches from your first tie.

Continue down the lamb, shimmying and looping.

You don't want your loops to be tight--just snug enough to keep your lamb leg together.

Once you get to the end of your leg, flip the lamb over and weave the long end through the loops--under one loop, over the next, under the one after that, etc.

Flip your lamb back over and tie the long end of the string to the short end of the string (from your first knot.)

Drizzle the outside of your lamb with olive oil and rub it on.

Spread the rest of your garlic and rosemary mixture over the top and sides. of the lamb. And don't forget to salt and pepper!

I roasted my leg of lamb over some potatoes, onions, and garlic. They got a nice lamb-y flavor from the roast.

I roasted my lamb at 350F for 2 1/2 hours. After I removed it from the oven, I cranked the temperature up to 450F and put the potatoes back in so they would get some color. It also allowed the lamb to rest before cutting.

If you've never had lamb before, this would be the perfect recipe to try the first time around! Maybe you'll find that lamb is your new favorite meat!

Recipe: Garlic and Rosemary Leg of Lamb

1 3-4 lb. leg of lamb, boneless
4 cloves garlic
1 tsp. dried rosemary (or 1 tbsp. fresh)
1 tsp. salt

olive oil
salt and pepper, to taste

Finely mince garlic, rosemary, and salt together to form a rough paste.

Open lamb leg. Drizzle leg with olive oil and spread half the garlic and rosemary paste on the inside. Salt and pepper.

Using string or kitchen twine cut ten times longer than the lamb, tie the lamb leg closed. Drizzle the outside of the lamb with more olive oil and rub with the remaining garlic and rosemary mixture. Salt and pepper.

Roast at 350F for 2 1/2 hours or until rare. Allow lamb to rest 10-15 minutes before slicing.

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