Lamb has a long, rich, worldwide culinary history. Enjoyed in ancient China, Greece, Italy, Iraq and Romania, sheep were one of the earliest of the domesticated animals. Even today the Romans claim they have the best pastureland in all of Italy and therefore the best tasting lamb. The roast leg of lamb is traditionally found on the Sunday family dinner tables in France, but it makes a wonderful main course for any holiday or family gathering. Not only is roast lamb delicious, it is thankfully also easy to prepare. Roast leg of lamb will grace our family table this Easter, and I hope you can enjoy it at your house too.
A whole leg of lamb usually weighs anywhere from 4 to 8 lbs. Choose the size that best fits the number of people you will serve, and be sure to get enough for leftovers. Roast lamb stew, sandwiches, and stir fry are all delicious.
For the richest flavor schedule your lamb preparations for the day before you plan to serve so the meat can absorb the flavors of the herbs and seasonings. In the recipe below I give you two options for the herb blend. The oregano and lemon blend will give you more of a Greek-style flavor, while the rosemary blend is more Tuscan/French. I give measurements for a 5-6 lb. leg of lamb. If yours is larger then just scale up the seasonings a bit so you’ll have enough to cover the whole thing. Roasting the meat at high heat and then reducing it to finish at a lower temperature will give you tender, juicy meat even with grassfed, pasture-raised lamb.
- 1 leg of lamb with the bone, about 5-6 lbs.
- 4 cloves of garlic, crushed
- 3 Tblsp fresh rosemary needles pulled from the stem
- 1 tsp each of Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
- ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
- OR for Greek-style flavors replace the rosemary with 3 Tblsp fresh oregano leaves plus the zest and juice of half a lemon
- For best flavor season the lamb the day before, or at least several hours before, you plan to serve.
- Place the garlic, rosemary, olive oil, salt and pepper in a small food processor and process into a finely minced puree.
- If you don’t have a food processor you can mince the rosemary as finely as possible and then use the back of a large spoon to crush and mix the rosemary, garlic, oil, salt and pepper in a bowl until well combined.
- Use the tip of a sharp knife to make a dozen or more 1″ deep slits all over the surface of the meat.
- Insert ½ tsp of the herb mixture into each of the slits, pushing it down into the meat until you’ve used it all up.
- Wrap the lamb tightly and refrigerate for up to one day.
- To roast, remove the lamb from the refrigerator an hour before roasting time to allow it to come to room temperature.
- Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.
- Remove the wrap and place the lamb in a roasting pan with the fat side facing up.
- Place the lamb in the preheated oven and roast for 30 minutes.
- Reduce the oven temperature to 300 degrees.
- Continue to cook the lamb for another 50 minutes, basting with the accumulated juices from the bottom of the pan.
- Use a meat thermometer to check for doneness.
- Medium rare is an internal temperature of 145 degrees, medium is 160 and well done is 170.
- When the meat is done to your liking, remove the lamb from the oven and tent with aluminum foil allowing it to rest about 15 minutes to absorb the juices and be ready for slicing.
- If your lamb is over 5lbs plan on an extra 30 minutes of cooking time per pound.
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