Major holidays and large celebrations demand a roast: turkey, ham, turducken… Whatever the beast, a roast feeds a crowd and gives a table the event its hosting pomp and circumstance.
Don’t be frightened! Cooking a roast is really not scary. You just need a good butcher and a meat thermometer. For this roast, call your butcher a few days in advance and place your order — while it’s not uncommon, it’s not always just available. You don’t really have to bother with a marinade other than lots of garlic (and, optionally, herbs like rosemary) when you’re ready to cook, so that’s another easy thing, but do definitely have that thermometer on hand because you really won’t be able to tell at what temperature the meat is by looking at it or even poking it as you might do a steak.
Lamb should be pink, and I suggest cooking it to medium-rare, but, other temperatures are included in the recipe below so you can go rarer or more well done. What to serve alongside? You can opt for basics like a green salad with lots of herbs and good olive oil and roasted potatoes, or add a few Middle Eastern touches like labneh and tahini.
ROASTED LEG OF LAMB
Serves 10 – 12
1 (6 to 7-pound) leg of lamb
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
6 heads of garlic plus12 peeled garlic cloves
– Take the lamb out of the fridge 1 hour prior to roasting. You can set a roasting rack inside a roasting pan, or set an oven-safe cooling rack inside a rimmed baking sheet. Lamb is fatty and will splatter in the oven, so if you’re going with the baking sheet, I recommend covering the oven rack with foil to catch any drips.
– Score (make shallow cuts) the lamb in a criss-cross pattern. Rub generously with salt and pepper. Drizzle with olive oil and rub into the lamb.
– Cut off the top third of each of the 6 heads of garlic and place on top of a sheet of foil. Drizzle the garlic generously with oil and season with salt. Wrap the garlic and set it on a baking sheet.
– Mince the remaining garlic cloves and add about 1 teaspoon of salt to it to help form it into a paste. Set aside.
– Adjust an oven rack to the middle position and another to the middle-lower position and set the oven to broil. Broil the lamb for 5 to 7 minutes until its golden brown. Carefully remove the lamb from the oven and, with bunched paper towels, roll it over. Add a bit more olive oil and broil once gain for 5 to 7 minutes. If you have a pastry torch or a propane torch, you can add a bit more charring with it.
– Reduce the oven temperature to 325°F. Place the foil-wrapped garlic in the on the lower rack. Rub the garlic over the lamb, adding more oil if it looks too dry. Tent the lamb loosely with foil and cook for 1 hour on the middle rack. Check the temperature, then continue cooking, checking the temperature every 15 minutes until the lamb reaches the doneness you want.
Medium-rare : 130°F – 135°F
Medium 135°F – 140°F
– Remove the lamb from the oven and allow it to rest for about 20 minutes before transferring it to a cutting board or platter for carving. Use a sharp knife and cut slices perpendicular to the bone, then parallel to release them.
FOR THE SIDES
These are “non”recipes in that you can buy many of the components almost ready to serve and that you can season the rest to taste! Easy!
– Parsley, watercress, mint, cilantro, and dill salad with sliced scallions and blood orange wedges, seasoned with salt and pepper, extra-virgin olive oil, and blood orange juice.
– Roasted garlic: once the lamb is done, the garlic can just be arranged on a platter. The garlic will squeeze out easily and spread on pita or other bread.
– Hummus: store-bought! Top it with some olive oil and black sesame seeds.
– Sesame tahini with a swirl of tangy date or pomegranate molasses (both available in the international section of many markets, at Middle Eastern markets, or online).
– Thinly sliced cucumbers and radishes with red onions and red wine vinegar, salt and pepper.
– Labneh with chopped pistachios and Aleppo pepper.