Mmmm...can you smell it? And the garlic? And the rosemary? The triumverate of deliciousness in springtime dinner-making. If that makes sense. Well, if you could smell it, it would.
And, of course, lamb doesn't have to just be a springtime thing. But we often had lamb for Easter in my family, so in my mind, it IS a springtime thing.
Anyway, enough dithering.
I bought a 7.74 lb leg of lamb the other day and cooked it for dinner on Friday. Ordinarily I would roast it at about 325 degrees F, but since slow-cooking roast beef has been such a success for the last few Christmas dinners, I thought I'd try the slow-cooking method with the lamb.
If I were to do this again, I'd either roast the garlic ahead of time, or cut it into much much thinner pieces before inserting the slices into little cuts in the meat. The garlic didn't cook enough, and still had that kind of sharp taste garlic has when it's raw.
But other than that, everything else about it was great.
Here's what I did.
First, I peeled a bunch of garlic cloves.
Then I sliced them in half, lengthwise, and in quarters, depending on the size of the clove.
Next, the leg.
I trimmed away a lot of the fat, very slowly and carefully.
Maybe not perfectly, but I got the job done.
Then, with a sharp little paring knife, I jabbed little openings in the lamb
and slid the garlic pieces in.
(sorry about the blur in that shot - I'd like a third arm at times like these)
Next thing to do, before the meat goes in the oven (which, by the way, go ahead and set for 225 F), is to sear the lamb in the same pan you'll be using to roast it.
Get the pan nice and hot first, and then gently lay the meat down.
You should hear a great loud sizzle, and you should LEAVE THE MEAT ALONE for a good five minutes or so. Don't keep checking it. For one thing, if you aren't using a non-stick pan, and you keep trying to lift up the leg to check the brownness, if the meat isn't ready, it'll still stick to the pan and tear away from the rest of the leg. You don't want that. Best to leave it. A trick I learned, I think it was from watching Sara Moulton on the Food Network, is to shake the pan now and then. If the meat sticks to where it is, it's not ready. If it slides around, go ahead and flip it over.
Now, you don't have the same problem with an non-stick pan, so just let it go for five minutes on high heat before you even think of checking it. Let the heat do its job.
Before it goes into the oven, sprinkle generously with dried rosemary and salt and pepper.
You want to cook the meat til the internal temp (insert the thermometer into the thickest are of the meat, but don't touch the bone) should be 14o for rare, 160 for medium, and 185 for well done.
When the meat is cooked the way you want it (and keep in mind - the thinner areas will, of course, be more "done" than the thickest part - and if you want to eat shoe leather, go to a shoe store. Just saying.), take it out of the oven and let it sit for 15-20 minutes so the juices can settle back into the meat.
We served ours with cous cous and fresh asparagus sauted in butter and lemon juice.
And I cooked our lamb rare/medium rare.
Number one, we like it that way. And number two, that's a big leg of lamb for two adults and two small children in one meal. So we'll be doing something fabulous with the leftover lamb, and if it's rare-ish, then it can withstand a second cooking without becoming tough.
The smell will torment you while it cooks.
But it's well worth it.