My grade school best friend’s Mom introduced me to lamb. She was an extraordinary cook and an avid reader of Gourmet magazine who went out of her way with an ingredient or method to enhance her cooking. From the flank steak she marinated for days in soy sauce, ginger and brown sugar to produce a sugary soy caramelized grilled crust, to her crispy on the outside and chewy on the inside chocolate chip laden cookies, Audree’s cooking left an impression. So my first taste of lamb was extraordinary. And every time I make this recipe for Herb Roasted Leg of Lamb, I think of her.
A high quality leg of lamb, does not need much enhancing because of its natural flavor and tenderness. My method here infuses the interior of the meat with a hint of garlic and coats the outside with a crust of fresh roasted herbs.
I recommend a roasting method that begins with a high temperature to encourage browning and then a reduced one to finish. The important thing is to not overcook the lamb. An instant reading thermometer will help you know when the lamb is cooked the way you want it. When inserted in the thickest part of meat, it gives you an accurate reading of what temperature the meat is. Medium rare lamb is 145 degrees F. So I cook it to a few degrees less than that because the meat’s internal temperature typically rises several degrees as it rests.
If there are any leftovers the next day, very thinly slice the lamb and briefly heat it under the broiler then tuck it into warm pita bread and drizzle with a bit of Tzatziki sauce (see the recipe that follows from my Greek Lemon Chicken Skewer post August 2011.)
Substituting lime zest and lime juice for the orange and cilantro for the parsley gives you an easy variation.
- ¼ cup olive oil
- 3 tablespoons chopped Italian parsley
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary or 2 teaspoons dried
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme or 1 teaspoon dried
- 2 tablespoons orange juice
- 1 tablespoon orange zest
- 2 cloves garlic, cut into slivers (about 10 slivers ⅛ inch by ¾ inch long)
- 3 pound boneless, butterflied leg of lamb
- Kosher salt
- Fresh ground black pepper
- Whisk together olive oil, parsley, rosemary, thyme and orange juice and zest; set aside.
- Put lamb in a shallow dish or on a platter with the cut side (where the bone was removed) up; with the tip of a paring knife, make as many pokes in the meat as you have garlic slivers, poking deep enough so that the garlic slivers will be submerged in the meat. Fill pokes with garlic slivers.
- Evenly spread herb marinade over the top of the lamb. Cover and refrigerate at least two hours or overnight.
- Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.
- Remove lamb from refrigerator 30 minutes before roasting (this makes it closer to room temperature before roasting) and put it in a roasting pan herb side up; season with salt and pepper.
- Roast the lamb for 20 minutes, then turn oven temperature down to 350 degrees F. and roast until cooked to desired doneness (for medium rare meat - an internal temperature of 145 degrees F. - about 40 minutes longer. I remove the meat from the oven when it is 135 to 140 degrees F. as the temperature will continue to rise several degrees while the meat rests). Remove lamb from oven; lightly tent with a piece of aluminum foil and allow sitting 15 minutes before slicing and serving.
2 cups plain Greek-style yogurt
1 cup chopped, peeled and seeded cucumber
1 tablespoon honey
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley, mint or cilantro or combination of all three
1 teaspoon lemon zest
Kosher salt, to taste
Cayenne pepper, to taste
Stir together all ingredients.