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Roasting a Leg of Lamb

(Newsletter Issue #011)


How to roast a leg of lamb

A leg of lamb makes a big roast that's a satisfying and less expensive alternative to the elegant saddle or rack. Some cooks bone the leg completely before roasting and some only bone it partially, to make the leg easier to carve. It is best to leave at least two bones in the leg because the bone adds flavor and makes for an attractive presentation. The leg is tied in three places to secure the flaps of meat around the hip, so that the roast cooks evenly.

To roast a leg, just set it in a heavy-bottomed roasting pan, with no roasting rack, in a hot oven. When the lamb is cooked, you can skim the fat from the juices left in the pan and serve them as a simple jus (the juices that are released by the lamb as it cooks). Or you can make more flavorful jus if you roast the leg on a bed of lamb bones and trimmings (from the leg itself), and a handful of unpeeled garlic cloves or chopped onion or shallot and carrot. The bones and trimmings also serve to keep the leg from sticking to the pan. Then deglaze the pan with stock or water and strain the juices. You could go a step further and thicken the jus with the pureed garlic from the roast.

Kitchen Notes

  • A whole leg of lamb with the hip bone (pelvis) left in should weight from 7 to 8 pounds and the lamb should be no more than a year old.

  • If you buy a leg of lamb from the butcher, he will remove the large piece of pelvis and tailbone, but if you buy a leg of lamb at the supermarket, you might have to do this yourself.

  • The roasting temperature is determined by how long it takes to brown the meat without overcooking it. Because leg is relatively large, it is roasted at a lower temperature (400oF) than rack of lamb.

  • Because the leg cooks for a long time, chances are the bones and trimmings will be well browned by the time the leg comes out of the oven. If not, brown them a bit more in the roasting pan on top of the stove before deglazing the pan.

Roast Leg of Lamb

1. Fold up the loose flaps at the end of the leg of lamb. 3. Place the leg in a heavy-bottomed roasting pan, season with salt and pepper, and surround with the bones and any small meat trimming.
2. Tie two lengths of string lengthwise around the leg of lamb, hooking them on both sides of the shank on one end and over the loose flaps at the other. Then tie a length of string crosswise around. 4. Roast in a 400oF oven for about 50 minutes to 1 hour, or until a thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the leg reads from 120oF to 130oF for rare to medium-rare, or more, depending on your tastes. Twenty minutes into the roasting, surround the rack with the cloves from 2 broken-up heads of garlic.

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