According to Bon Appetit Magazine lamb is trending right now.
I’m not surprised, it’s a tender meat that’s flavorful yet not heavy when prepared well and simpler than you think. Leg of lamb is not as fatty as lamb shoulder, nor as gamey tasting and you just can’t get enough.
With Passover and Easter just about here, what better way to celebrate than with a simple rustic style meal of leg of lamb with fennel, onions, and carrots to please a crowd – a lighter meal allowing room for dessert!
For those not a fan of fennel’s strong licorice (anise) taste, the roasting eases up on its’ strong flavors that I encourage you to try. Lamb pairs so well with a simple blend of fennel, onions, and carrots. Some other well-paired alternatives would be asparagus, parsnips, spring onions, or baby turnips. Easy yet impressive holiday meal that is foolproof – YESSSSS.
Quick tip: plastic squeeze bottles make for easy drizzling. I keep one for olive oil, avocado oil, sherry vinegar, coconut oil – the drizzling options are endless!
Here are some notes for cooking lamb:
Roasting ‘bone-in’ adds extra flavor and fit for a holiday dinner, but not always available. If unavailable, boneless lamb is a tasty alternative.
Don’t discard the bone! Freeze the bone to add to a future soup – it will add depth to beef, or turkey broth.
Some leg of lamb has a thick layer of fat, which may produce a gamey mutton-like taste, ask your butcher to remove some of the excess fat.
There is a difference between the USA and New Zealand lamb: USA lamb is grass-fed and usually grain-finished. It’s has a milder, slightly sweeter taste with a little more fat to it. New Zealand lamb is fed rye and grasses. It’s leaner, smaller and slightly gamey tasting.
Marinating lamb can make the meat tough.
Cooking time is similar to turkey, about 20 minutes per pound for medium. Check the internal temperature with a thermometer to ensure doneness to your liking. Keep in mind, resting the meat will raise the internal temperature about five degrees so slightly undercooked is okay!
There, I think that should do it. Enjoy!
- For the vegetables:
- 2 large onions, peeled, sliced in quarters
- 2 medium fennel, sliced into quarters, roughly chop stems and fronds
- 7 medium carrots, peeled, cut into thirds (tops still on optional)
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon crushed black pepper
- olive oil (not extra virgin) to drizzle
- Note: cut vegetables in similar size to ensure even cooking.
- For the lamb:
- 1 leg of lamb (about 4½ pounds)
- one handful of peeled garlic cloves, whole
- 3 large sprigs fresh rosemary
- 2-3 tablespoons kosher salt
- 1-2 tablespoons crushed black pepper
- olive oil (not extra virgin)
- Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F (204 C). Set a rack in the middle of the oven and one below it (for the vegetables).
- Transfer all the cut vegetables onto a baking sheet, evenly season with salt and pepper, then drizzle with olive oil (about 2 tablespoons). Gently mix by hand to evenly coat both sides. Set aside.
- Pat lamb dry with a paper towel. Season liberally and evenly to create a light coating of salt and black pepper (as if a slight sprinkling of snow), same on the other side. Transfer to the second parchment lined baking sheet. Place 6-8 cloves in the middle of the second rimmed baking sheet, place lamb directly over the garlic. With the fat side up, cut one-inch indents throughout and stick cloves of garlic and pieces of rosemary sprigs into the indents. Then drizzle 1-2 teaspoons of olive oil over the top and rub it into the meat.
- Roast lamb at 400 degrees F for 55 minutes, then reduce heat to 350 degrees F (175C) and roast an additional 35 minutes.
- When reducing heat, add the vegetables into the oven. Roast for the 35 minutes time remaining for the lamb, then increase the temperature to 400 degrees F (vegetables still in) to roast vegetables an additional 15 minutes. This will brown the vegetables further while the meat rests, to serve simultaneously.
- Note: You may be wondering why not cook the lamb at a lower temperature, consistently? I have learned years ago (from Thomas Keller’s cookbooks) that the higher temperature seals in the juices, which keeps the meat moist and the outside crispy - same goes for poultry. Although many recipes suggest roasting at 325 degrees F, I always had lamb that was overdone around the edges yet raw in the middle. This method cooks the lamb medium rare by the bone, medium throughout most of the meat and some well-done end tips - a piece for everyone!
- When the lamb is done, cover with aluminum foil and let it rest 15 minutes before slicing.
- Slice against the grain (you may need to maneuver angles as the grain usually shifts), with the garlic pieces intact (or remove if desired). Serve hot with roasted vegetables.
- To reheat: transfer to an oven safe platter, cover and reheat for 15 minutes, or until hot, in a 300 degrees F oven.
- Transfer to a baking dish and serve with lamb.
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