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The Heart of New England
Leg of Lamb, Two Ways
by Charlie Burke

I am not sure where our tradition of serving ham at Easter began, but lamb is
prepared in most other countries. Many recall overcooked, dry lamb from their
childhood, and what was sold as lamb in the past was  frequently mutton which
has a much stronger flavor. True lamb is less than a year
old, and when cooked to medium rare is flavorful and mild so that anyone who
enjoys roast beef will enjoy it, as well. If fresh local lamb is available, you will
find no better. In markets in the spring, excellent quality is available, both with
the bone in or boneless.

If your grill is not covered with snow, consider grilling a whole boneless leg of
lamb, which has become our favorite preparation. If you wish to roast the leg in
the oven, I’d suggest you cook the leg with the bone in which will yield a moist
roast and provide a great presentation when carved at
the table (don’t worry, we’ll describe an easy method!).

In either case, a 5 pound leg will serve 6 – 8, while a 6 ½ to 7 ½ pound leg will
serve 10 – 12. Both can be held in a 125 - 135 degree oven for up to an hour while
the rest of the meal is prepared, lessening the stress at serving time.

Grill-Roasted Boneless Leg of Lamb:

5 – 7 pound boneless leg of lamb

4 cloves garlic (use more or fewer, according to taste)
½ cup roughly chopped rosemary
2 teaspoons coarsely ground black pepper
2 -3 teaspoons kosher or sea salt, (depending upon size of leg)
½ cup extra virgin olive oil

Trim excess fat from meat. Lay leg flat; it will be of
uneven thickness. Cut vertically into the thickest areas and spread apart so that
thickness is more uniform, but do not try to get it perfectly even. The differences
in thickness will result in areas more or less cooked, providing choices for your

Place all marinade ingredients into a blender and blend until smooth. Apply
marinade to both sides of the lamb, cover and refrigerate for several hours or over
night. Bring meat to room temperature for 2-3 hours before cooking.

If using a charcoal cooker, build a medium fire (test by holding your hand 5
inches above the cooking surface -- ready if you can hold it there for only 3 - 4
seconds). Use hardwood charcoal for the best results. If using a gas grill, preheat
on medium – high for 30 minutes, covered.

Cook, uncovered, for approximately 15 minutes per side for medium rare (125
degrees). For medium, cook a few minutes longer per side (140 degrees). If you
do not have a thermometer, cut into a thick area and check color. Let meat rest 5
-10 minutes before slicing, serving thicker area to those who prefer more rare

Oven Roasted Leg of Lamb:

5 – 71/2 pound bone in leg of lamb

Prepare marinade as above. Trim excess fat from leg, leaving a very thin layer;
spread marinade over all surfaces and refrigerate several hours or over night.
Remove from refrigerator 4 hours before cooking.

Preheat oven to 475 degrees.

Reapply any marinade which has drained from the meat, and place lamb into a
shallow roasting pan. Place in oven and cook for 20 minutes, then lower
temperature to 350 degrees and cook for approximately one hour. Check
temperature, continuing cooking until a few degrees lower than desired
temperature (see above). Remove from oven and let sit for 15-20 minutes.
Residual heat should bring the roast to proper temperature.

While lamb is resting, pour fat from roasting pan, place pan over medium-high
heat, add 2 cup of chicken stock or chicken stock and white wine and boil,
scraping up solids. Add salt and pepper to taste, place in vessel and serve with
the meat.  

To carve, bring whole leg to the table on a platter. With small end facing the
carver, the meat is carved into thin slices, starting at the wide end; do not worry
about cutting with the grain. Properly cooked, the lamb is tender and these wide
thin slices make a dramatic presentation. Use a clean kitchen towel to aid in
grasping the bone to steady the roast. Turn roast over and slice the other side in
the same manner.

Serve with a good red wine such as a Chateau Neuf du Papes or other good
Rhone, an excellent California Zinfandel or its Australian cousin, Shiraz.

And, please, no mint jelly!

About the author  An organic farmer and avid cook, writer Charlie Burke is the
vice president of the New Hampshire Farmer’s Market Association (
org) and helps run the Sanbornton Farmers' Market. Along with his wife, Joanne,
he grows certified organic herbs, greens and berries at Weather Hill Farm in
Sanbornton, NH.  
The Heart of New England
Celebrating the unique character & culture of Maine ~ New Hampshire ~ Vermont
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