Since this blog is focused on healthy comfort food, it’s very rare that I post full-frontal glamour shots of glistening hunks of red meat sitting in their juices. Some of you herbivores might even find these images offensive and disgusting. Sorry, Meatless Monday.
Even though I don’t eat meat that often, I find there’s something very empowering in prepping and cooking it. When I was getting ready for Chef Race, I made friends with my local butcher Knickerbocker Meats and they let me come by to witness and participate in (emotionally, not physically, for insurance reasons) the breakdown of a 200 pound pig. I found it fascinating, even if today I couldn’t tell you how they did it if you paid me. It did, however, make me more handsy when it came to this whole pig come October.
I’ve referenced my New Year’s Eve meal a lot in 2013 in the name of dramatic foreshadowing. Well, folks: today is the day I finally reveal the recipe at the centerpiece of the meal. And boy is it worth the wait.
Since it was a special occasion, I indulged myself in my desire to take on a big bone-in hunk of meat, big price tag and all. It’s not that leg of lamb is that expensive compared to other cuts – especially lamb chops. But when you’re buying organic and you’re buying 10 pounds of it, these things add up. The price tag only made me want to treat my lamb leg with extra special ingredients and care.
One of my favorite things about Knickerbocker is all the prepared food they offer. The owner, Mike, fancies himself more of a chef than a butcher and is always experimenting with different things in the back kitchen. One recent staple is the massive glass jar of preserved lemons on the counter. I usually have a few sitting in my fridge from Zamouri spices. But now that I can pick them up fresh, I use them even more in my cooking.
I bought my NYE lamb fresh from another butcher on Martha’s Vineyard. But I brought with me a few preserved lemons from Knickerbocker and decided to use them as the base for my marinade. Together with heaps of rosemary from my mother’s garden, the preserved lemon crust had the most intoxicating aroma that infused every inch of that lamb leg. You didn’t even need a sauce to go with it.
I don’t usually pat myself on the back. But in this case, bravo you.
I made the lamb again for Oscar night so I could retrace my culinary steps and snap some pictures for the site. I can’t think of a better option for the centerpiece of your Easter table. Or if you’re just looking to embrace a little carne, bones and all, this dish is the perfect excuse to do so. Make friends with your butcher and have at it.
Whole Roasted Leg of Lamb with Rosemary and Preserved Lemon
Makes 10 servings
The lamb will leave behind some great fat. My favorite thing is to add halved baby potatoes directly to the pan and toss to coat in the oil and remaining marinade. Roast them in a 425 degree oven for 20 to 30 minutes while the lamb is resting. Delicious.
4 cloves garlic
⅓ cup rosemary leaves
Rind of 1 preserved lemon (white pith removed), roughly chopped
Juice of 1 lemon
1 tablespoon sea salt
¼ cup olive oil
One 7 to 8 pound bone-in leg of lamb
1. In a small food processor combine the garlic, rosemary, preserved lemon, lemon juice, salt, and olive oil. Puree until everything is finely chopped. Alternatively, you can use a mortar and pestle to create a coarse paste.
2. Place the lamb on a work surface. Score the fat, being careful not to cut into the actual meat. (Translation: cut thin slits in the fat, about ¼ inch apart. This will help it melt away in the cooking process and allow the marinade to flavor the meat).
3. Rub the marinade all over the lamb, pressing it into the slits in the fat. Cover tightly in plastic wrap and chill in the fridge overnight.
4. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.
5. Remove the plastic from the lamb and set the leg, fat-side up, on a baking sheet or in a roasting pan. Cook for 15 minutes, then turn the heat down to 350 and roast for another 45 to 60 minutes, until the internal temperature is 130 – 135 degrees. Remove from the oven and rest for at least 20 minutes. Cut into thick slices and arrange on a platter. Serve warm or at room temperature.