Leg of lamb is a cut of meat especially suited for holiday celebrations. Lamb is comforting and festive, rich and hearty and fills the house with a lingering, savory aroma that will have people hovering around the oven waiting for dinner. Lamb is a nice break from more commonly served meats like beef and pork and it’s agreeable to countless combinations of herbs and spices.
Aromatic herbs are a traditional way to adorn leg of lamb and you really can’t go wrong, no matter what herbs you choose. In this recipe, parsley and rosemary are combined with olive oil, garlic and salt to make a simple but amazing herb paste. Within a few minutes of putting the lamb in to cook, the scent of fresh herbs will be wafting out of the oven, becoming more deliciously intense as the meat cooks. Fresh mint and dill, basil and oregano and sage and parsley are other herb combinations to try. If you want to get more adventurous, open up your spice drawer and season the lamb with a bold blend of dry seasonings:
cinnamon, cumin, coriander
oregano, paprika, garlic
fennel, cardamom and ginger
nutmeg, cloves, black pepper
Leg of lamb is sold with the bone or more commonly, boneless. The big advantage of boneless is that it’s really easy to carve and cooks more evenly since the size is slightly more uniform. However, even with a boneless leg of lamb it’s likely that the meat will come out of the oven with different levels of doneness. The edges will be crispy and cooked through to medium and the very middle will be pink and juicy. Yet another reason leg of lamb is perfect for large groups – there will be a slice that suites everyone at the table.
Lamb pairs well with many different sides. Roasted root vegetables, sautéed spinach and sweet potatoes are especially good.
5-to-6-pound boneless leg of lamb
6 sprigs fresh parsley, leaves and stems
2 sprigs fresh rosemary, needles pulled off stems
1/4 cup olive oil
4 cloves garlic, peeled
1 teaspoon kosher salt
Bring the lamb out of refrigeration an hour before cooking.
In a food processor, blend parsley, rosemary, olive oil, garlic and salt until herbs are well chopped (you can also just use a sharp knife to finely chop the herbs and garlic.)
Heat the oven to 425º F
Rub the whole leg down really well with the herb mixture. The leg might be held together with netting – it’s easiest to keep this on and rub around it. If the meat isn’t held together with netting, use kitchen twine to secure the meat so it holds together while it cooks.
Put the lamb on a rack over a roasting pan filled with 2 cups of water. For easier clean-up, consider covering the bottom of the roasting pan with foil.
Roast the lamb for 30 minutes then take a peek. If it looks and smells like the meat and/or herb paste is starting to burn, then turn the temperature down to 350 for the remaining cooking time. Otherwise, leave it at 425 F
Let the meat cook 30 more minutes then check the temp of the meat in several places at the thickest part. When the instant-read thermometer reads 125 the meat is rare; 130 for medium rare. When the middle is medium rare, the outer edges of the roast will be medium. Remove the meat from the oven and let it rest 15-20 minutes before carving.