For Easter 2012, Emily and I decided to roast a leg of lamb. For a solid week I searched high and low for the perfect recipe, sending Emily close to a dozen from pancetta wrapped to mustard crusted. Nothing seemed quite right until I realized that what my heart and stomach really wanted was a simple and traditional preparation that would showcase the lamb itself. Finally, a few days before Easter I found the recipe I was looking for right on my bookshelf in Thomas Keller’s Ad Hoc at Home.
Rather than a plethora of herbs and spices, Keller calls for the lamb to be marinated in nothing more than canola oil, garlic, and rosemary. In order to ensure that the lamb is evenly flavored, the garlic cloves are inserted directly into the thickest parts of the lamb. Rosemary sprigs are then inserted strategically into the sirloin of the lamb and salt, pepper and canola oil are rubbed into it before putting the lamb into the oven. Since the preparation was so simple, I splurged on the leg of lamb by heading to Eastern Market, buying the last one in the case, and requesting that the butcher remove the fell (which gives lamb its gamy taste) and french the bone.
After an hour and 45 minutes in the oven, the lamb came out perfectly medium rare to rare. I let it rest for another 45 minutes while Emily and I finished preparing the rest of dinner, drinking some sparkling wine, welcoming guests, and munching on cheese, pate, and duck mousse. Easter is the greatest of holidays and celebrating it by breaking bread with my best pals makes it even more joyous.
Roasted Leg of Lamb (from Ad Hoc at Home)
One 6 1/2 pound trimmed leg of lamb, bone frenched
5 garlic cloves, halved lengthwise
4 rosemary sprigs
1/2 cup canola oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Gray salt or coarse sea salt
Set a roasting rack in a roasting pan. if the fell, the thin membrane over the outer layer of fat, is still intact, carefully remove it with a sharp knife. (Don’t be concerned if some of the fat is removed from the fell.) Make ten 1/2- to 1-inch-deep incisions in the thickest parts of the leg, where the garlic will be visible when the lamb is sliced, and insert a piece of garlic in each. Make another incision in the meat just above the frenched bone and insert 1 sprig of rosemary in the incision. Lay another 2 springs in the groove of the sirloin.
Turn the leg over and rub 1/4 cup of the oil over the meat. Season generously with salt and pepper. Turn the meat back over, tuck the flap of sirloin under the roast, and place on the rack. Rub the top of the roast with the remaining 1/4 cup oil and season generously with salt and pepper. Pull off the leaves of the remaining rosemary sprig and scatter them over the roast. Let sit at room temperature for 1 hour or until it has reached room temperature.
Preheat the oven to 325°F. Put the lamb in the oven and roast for 1 hour.
Turn the pan around and roast for 30 minutes, or until the very center of the top round registers 135°F.
To carve the roast, hold the exposed bone, stand the lamb up on a cutting board, and slice the meat vertically, against the grain, until you reach the bone. Turn the roast around and carve the other side in the same manner until you reach the bone. Finally, slice across the sirloin. Arrange the meat on a serving platter and sprinkle with gray salt.