rosemary roasted leg of lamb


It has apparently become tradition to hold Easter dinner at my house, with both mine and Gerrit’s families.  And I think this is really lovely, since Christmas and Thanksgiving already have their own traditions at our parents’ homes.  It’s nice to have a holiday that we get to host.  The only problem is that by the time we all get done with church and get our food cooked, we didn’t eat lunch until almost 2:00.  I think this is also perfectly fine though, because when I think about Sunday dinners in the South I think about a late heavy lunch followed by a nap and an “oh my goodness how did it get to be 4:00 and we’re still sitting at the table” kind of feeling–which is exactly how our Easter went.

After lunch, at around 6:00, I was sitting on the couch reading, and I finished Barbara Brown Taylor’s An Altar in the World.  I absolutely adored this book (it will go on my list of books that change my life).  It is all about the sacredness that exists in our everyday world, about paying attention to it.  And perhaps one of my favorite chapters was “The Practice of Saying No” which is about Sabbath time and how important it is to allow ourselves (and other people and animals and plants) the opportunity to rest.  In it she talks about how Sundays used to be Sabbath time, with families gathering for dinner after church and then taking a nap or sitting on the porch because there was nothing else to do.  But then stores started staying open, and our culture started telling us that we needed to do more.  And Sunday stopped being about rest and started being about getting ahead.

But rest was what Sunday after lunch was.  We cleaned up from lunch and then puttered around the house.  Really, I needed to go to the grocery store, but they were kind enough to close so that I couldn’t.  I did a bit of laundry, but I also read and sat on the couch with a blanket around me.

I made a roast leg of lamb for Easter, mostly because when else would I have an excuse for such a thing?  And although I had my cookbooks open to several recipes, I felt completely lost for a bit.  Boneless or semi-boneless?  How much fat do I actually trim off?  I was trying to figure out how to answer these questions with so many different sources telling me so many different things.  And I think I (and my dad, since he actually put it in the oven and kept an eye on it) did a pretty good job, because this lamb was delicious.  It had the gamey flavor that lamb should have, but without it being too overpowering.  And the rosemary crust gave it a sophisticated flavor.  We all enjoyed it together (with a tzatziki sauce that Gerrit promises me was the best he’d ever had), and it was exactly the Easter meal I was hoping for.

Now to start plotting what we might have next year.

So, to help you out if you’re feeling a little lost with your leg of lamb:

Boneless?  Semi-boneless?  Originally I was going to go the boneless route, but when I got to the store and saw how much cheaper the semi-boneless leg of lamb was, I couldn’t resist.  You can use either one, but you’ll have to adjust your cooking times.  A boneless leg of lamb will not take as long to cook (usually about half the time a semi-boneless will take).

Is it supposed to smell like that?  When I opened my lamb on Easter morning, I was distraught at the smell, thinking it had gone bad.  Then I realized it was probably just all that stuff (I don’t even want to know) that it had been packaged with, so I gave it a good rinse and we were good to go.  Lamb does smell a little different than your other red meats though, so just be aware.

How much fat do I trim off?  Some recipes I saw said to trim as much fat as you can off.  Other recipes seemed to leave all the fat on.  I went with a happy medium, trimming the fat in places where it seemed particularly thick so that I was left with just a nice thin layer to help keep the meat underneath juicy.  It seemed to work perfectly.

What else do I need to know?  It’s a good idea to tie it up with kitchen twine so it cooks more evenly.  Pull the looser parts of the leg up snug with the thicker parts of the mean so it looks a little more uniform, and tie it up.  Also, as far as carving it goes: I cut parallel to the bone in order to cut the large part of the meat above the bone off and then sliced it.

Rosemary Roasted Leg of Lamb
adapted from The All New Ultimate Southern Living Cookbook
and How to Cook Everything

Prep Time: 25 minutes
Bake Time: 1 hour 30 minutes
Wait Time: 10 minutes

Serves 8-10

1/4 cup chopped fresh rosemary
3 garlic cloves, peeled
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon pepper
1 (6 to 7 lb.) semi-boneless leg of lamb

1. In a small food processor, combine the rosemary, garlic cloves, lemon juice (zest it first if you also want to make the tzatziki sauce), olive oil, salt, and pepper.  Process until fairly smooth.  Set aside.
2. Preheat oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit.
3. To prepare the lamb for cooking, rinse off and pat dry with paper towels.  Then trim some of the fat off of lamb, but leave a thin layer.  Tie the lamb up with kitchen twine, mostly to pull the thinner parts of the meat up close to the thicker parts to allow for a even cooking.  Place the lamb on a rimmed baking pan or roasting dish and spread the rosemary mixture evenly on both the top and bottom of the lamb.
4. Roast the lamb for 30 minutes.  Then lower the oven temperature to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.  Roast for 1 hour and then check the meat with an instant read thermometer.  The temperature should be 130 degrees.  If it needs to cook longer, continue to cook but check the temperature every 10 minutes until it reaches 130 degrees.
5. Remove from oven and cover with foil.  Let rest for about 10 minutes before carving.  To carve, cut parallel to the bone to remove the meat above the bone and then slice that piece of meat (you can pick off more from around the bone once you have that big part off).  Serve warm, with tzatziki sauce if you’d like.

Tzatziki Sauce
from the All-New Ultimate Southern Living Cookbook

Prep Time: 10 minutes

1 (16 oz.) container plain yogurt
1 large cucumber, peeled, seeded, and diced
1 tablespoon chopped fresh dill
1 tablespoon chopped fresh mint
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon lemon zest
1 garlic clove, peeled and minced

1. Combine the yogurt, diced cucumber, dill, mint, salt, lemon zest, and garlic.  Stir together.  Chill until ready to use.

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3 Replies to “rosemary roasted leg of lamb”

  1. We had the same thing for dinner on Easter. I love the crust that yours has on it and rosemary goes so well with lamb. I would have never have thought to serve a Tzatziki sauce with it – yum!

    We have some in our freezer and I was going to make a stew with it next week.

    I will have to look for that book the next time I am at the library. Like the thoughts on the Sabbath. Would be nice to get back to that. I think our society is just so busy these days we have to use Sunday as a day to get ready for our crazy week ahead. Would be nice to feel like its ok to have a day of rest.

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