ROASTED LAMB RECIPE: SACRED SPRING, A CELEBRATION OF THE EARLY HARVEST
Spring is often hailed as a chef’s favorite season. After a winter of cold and dreary landscape coupled with endless beets and turnips, it’s a very pleasant change of pace to find bursts of green filling the produce bins. It brings with it the joy of bright herbaceous flavors, green peas and sweet spring onions. There’s little that can rival the first harvests from the field, and there isn’t much else that can accompany these early picks than a roast leg of lamb. The strong depth of the lamb’s flavor pairs well with spring peas, asparagus, broccoli, arugula. Pretty much any green vegetable and lots of herbs; mint, rosemary, parsley, cilantro, lavender—you name it.
Lamb is tender, sweet, and lean. Many home cooks may find lamb to be intimidating. It can be a bit more expensive than other proteins, and—given the lean nature of the meat and high amount of connective tissue—there is an idea that it is difficult to clean and cook. But roasting a leg of lamb is truly a simple task. It is easy to complicate the matter if you wish to do so, but honestly it requires no more than a few ingredients and a little bit of patience.
The very first step is to find a reliable source for your lamb. This is as important to the flavor of your roast as the rest of this recipe. Grass Roots sheep are pasture raised and are 100% grass fed and finished. Their primary breed is Katahdin, which is a short-haired sheep raised specifically for meat, not wool. These animals thrive in the warm summers of Arkansas, and their meat is known for it’s mild flavor and tenderness. Young lamb leg will weigh about 4–6 pounds bone-in.
The next step is to decide wether to cook bone-in our debone the leg. This is where the process can get a little complex. Deboning a leg of lamb isn’t difficult, but it adds a few steps. The muscle will have to be trussed after deboning to keep it all together. It can also make it a bit easier to overcook the roast. The pros to deboning are that it is easier to season the meat throughout and that it will probably cook a bit more quickly and evenly.
For less fuss and mess, I suggest brining the bone-in leg for about 8-10 hours, then slow roasting with an herb rub. The brine will season the meat all the way through, and the bone will help to keep the meat moist and flavorful. Plus, it cuts about thirty minutes of active prep time out of the recipe. Slow roasting the lamb can allow for more breakdown of the connective tissue in the muscle, which makes for a more tender end result. The roast will fit nicely in the center of a large spread.
Carving a bone in lamb roast can be a little tricky. It is easiest to find a place where two separate muscles meet and cut down to the bone, following the curve of the bone with the blade until the meat is filleted. Remove any hard fat or cartilage while thinly slicing the meat. Enjoy with friends and family.
ROASTED LEG OF LAMB
4-6 pound leg of lamb
For the Brine
6 Qt water
1 C kosher salt
1/2 C honey
1/4 C brown sugar
1 T whole peppercorn
1 T mustard seed
1 t green cardamom
1 t coriander
1 t cumin
2 sprigs rosemary
1/2 bunch parsley
4 sprigs thyme
4 cloves crushed garlic
- Place all ingredients into a stock pot and bring to a boil.
- Let cool to room temp before using or storing in the refrigerator. Alternately, use 3 qt water to make brine and then add 3 qt ice to cool down for use immediately.
- Combine the meat and brine in a container and refrigerate for about eight hours.
- Preheat the oven to 260. An hour before cooking, remove the lamb from the brine and the refrigeration.
- Blot dry with a towel and set aside.
For the Herb Rub
3/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup parsley, chopped
1/4 cup mint, chopped
1/4 cup rosemary, minced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 T kosher salt
1 T cracked black pepper
- Combine all ingredients in a mixing bowl and stir until a paste forms.
- Rub the leg of lamb with the herb paste and roast in the 260 degree oven for about 20 minutes per pound. Check periodically with an internal meat thermometer. The lamb leg should cook to about 130-135 degrees.
- To finish the lamb, broil for about five minutes until it is nice and brown.
- Remove from the oven and tent with foil to rest for about twenty to thirty minutes. After resting, slice, serve and enjoy!