Sunday, June 24, 2012

Lemon, Garlic and Rosemary Roasted Leg of Lamb

For some reason, guests are always impressed that I can cook a large piece of meat. Be it a standing rib roast, a turkey, a chicken, a duck, people are always all "oh, wow, you can cook that entire thing? All together at the same time? Wow you are a super awesome cook." If only they knew how EASY it is to do. In fact, I think it's easier to roast a larger piece of meat than try to cook smaller individual pieces--bigger cuts of meat are more forgiving of error. 

A leg of lamb is an excellent "weekend lunch" type meal to make in the Spring and early Summer months. Grocery stores sometimes have specials, and I typically pick it up if I see it on sale. Some people find lamb to be a bit gamey, but if it's cooked well, and done with complimentary flavors, then I think it's quite delicious and of course, a special treat. Buy bone in or boneless, whichever fits your style.

Disclaimer: Roasting meat always works out much better if you have a roasting pan; it's typically just a non-stick baking pan that has a rack set into it about 1 inch high; this allows all of the juices which drip during cooking to collect below and leave the meat with its nice crust on it.

To make this recipe, you will need:

Lamb roast (mine was about 3.5 lbs with a bone, and we have some leftover after feeding two people)
One head of fresh garlic
One lemon
Sea Salt
Black Pepper

Preheat your oven to 325 degrees.

First thing's first: Rinse the lamb and pat it dry with paper towels. It's important to get as much of the excess water/juice off of it as possible due to the fact that when you're roasting, you want your piece of meat as dry as possible.

Next, trim the lamb of excess fat. You want to keep a tiny bit of fat on it to keep it juicy and moist in the oven. The best way to trim the fat is to use a chef's knife to cut a tiny slit in one area of the fat, grab the fat with one hand, and slice horizontally through the fat with the knife. A good, sharp knife will cut easily through the fat. After you're done, it should look something like this:

After trimming the leg of lamb, use the chef's knife to cut several slits into it in varying locations. To do so, push the tip of the chef's knife into the lamb and push it in maybe 1-2 inches. The slits do not need to be too big. 

Then, take the head of garlic and extract 5-6 cloves of garlic from the peel. For those of you who think this is a difficult task, learn the magical way of extracting garlic cloves from their peels without smushing them: press the flat part of the chef's knife blade against the garlic and push down with the heel of your hand until you hear the "crunchy" sound of the peel giving way. Usually the garlic escapes  unscathed.

Take one clove of garlic and a small sprig of rosemary and put some in each of the slits you cut into the lamb. Stuff them deep down into the lamb; this will infuse the flavor as it cooks. 

Season the rest of the meat with salt and pepper, then sprinkle some extra sprigs of rosemary on it. Then lay some lemon wheels on the meat, and squeeze whatever lemon you haven't laid out over it to get the juice on the lamb. Place the lamb on your roasting pan.

Put in your oven on a center rack at 325. Some people advise cooking at about 20 minutes per pound; I find though, that when I have a bone-in roast, it takes a bit more time. I'd start out with about 15-20 minutes per pound on the kitchen timer, then check it with a meat thermometer. You want the meat thermometer, when stuck in the thickest part of the lamb (without touching the bone, if it's a bone-in roast) to read about 150-155 degrees.

A note about temperature: 145 is rare; 160 is medium. I like to slightly "undercook" from medium, because it will also continue to cook when it comes out of the oven and rests a bit. Also, it always possible to cook a piece of meat further if you find it is too rare for your liking; it is impossible to "uncook" something that is too overdone, and that's just the most disappointing thing; to realize you've messed up at that last step.

My roast was done after about an hour and fifteen minutes:

Let it rest for about ten to fifteen minutes before you fully cut it; then slice, serve, and enjoy! Impress your guests, your significant other, or your own belly!


  1. Yummy. Before you know it, you'll have your own catering service along with your full time job! Thanks for these tasty ideas, along with fabulous photography!