food.and.wine.pairing

Leg of Lamb
by Mike Supple
published: 30 Jan 2008

Wine pairing by Mike Supple: Spanish reds tend to go best with lamb, particularly with all of the spices in this dish. Stick with a lighter red like a fresh young Rioja or Tempranillo rather than dark heavy wines like Cabernet. A bright Pinot Noir from California or New Zealand could also go nicely with this dish, as would a dry Rose Champagne.


The Recipe

A great twist on a classic French style of cooking. Fairly easy to make, and quite delicious. The first time I made this I tripped over my dog on the way in from the grill and almost dumped the lamb everywhere. Fortunately I caught it against my shirt and the meal was saved (for me...my dog would have preferred I dropped it all).

How to make it:

The most important thing to remember about cooking a lamb roast is to not over-cook it. Lamb has such wonderful flavor on its own, and is so naturally tender, that it is bound to turn out well, as long as it is still a little pink inside. There is some debate over which method yields the best results - slow cooking at low heat the entire time, or searing first on high heat and then slow cooking. We generally get great results with the searing method, starting at high heat and then dropping the temp which is the method described in the following recipe.

Marinade:
1/2 cup orange juice
1 cup dry white wine
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 teaspoons of fresh thyme or 1 teaspoon of dried thyme
2 Tbsp of fresh chopped rosemary or 1 Tbsp of dried rosemary
1/4 teaspoon of fresh ground pepper
2 Tbsp olive oil

Blend ingredients in a blender, just a few pulses until well mixed.

Lamb:
1 leg of lamb, bone-in or boneless. If boneless, the leg should be tied up with kitchen string by butcher.
Marinade
Salt

Place lamb and marinade into a plastic bag. Squeeze out as much of the air as possible from the bag and seal. Marinate for several hours, or overnight, in the refrigerator. Remove the lamb, still in its marinade bag, from the refrigerator at least 30 minutes before putting in the oven to help bring the lamb closer to room temperature before roasting.

Preheat oven to 425F. Arrange two racks in the oven - a middle rack to hold the lamb, and a lower rack to hold a roasting pan with which to catch the drippings. Place the empty roasting pan in the oven while the oven is pre-heating. Note that this arrangement of racks and pans, with the roast sitting directly on the oven rack, will create a natural convection of heat in the oven, causing the roast to cook more quickly than if cooked the traditional method in a rack in a roasting pan.

Remove the lamb roast from its marinade bag (you may want to temporarily place lamb in another roasting pan, just to make it less messy to work with.) Pat dry the marinade off the lamb with paper towels. Generously salt and pepper all sides of the roast. Arrange fattiest side up, so while the lamb is cooking the fat will melt into the meat. Insert a meat thermometer into the thickest part of the roast, not touching the bone if your roast is bone-in. Place directly on middle rack of the oven, with a roasting pan on a separate rack a rung lower, to catch the drippings.

Roast at 425F for 20 minutes. Then reduce the heat to 300F and roast an additional hour (for a 6 pound roast), about 10-12 minutes per pound. Note that the method of cooking directly on the oven rack will mimic a convection oven and the cooking time/oven temp needed will be less than you would need if you cooked the roast on a rack in a roasting pan. If you are cooking the roast in a roasting pan, rack or not, start the roast at 450F and then reduce the heat to 325F. Also, the shape of the roast will have an impact on the cooking time. Our roast was rather long and thin, so it cooked up fairly quickly. A thicker roast may take longer than expected.

At this point start checking the meat thermometer. Note that every time you open the oven door, you'll need 10 minutes or so to bring the oven back up to temperature, thus slowing down the cooking process. So, don't check too often. Remove from the oven anywhere from 130F to 135F for medium rare. Lamb should never be cooked until well done or it will be too dry. Let stand for 10 minutes before carving. Cut away the kitchen string and slice with a sharp carving knife, 1/2 inch thick slices, against the grain of the meat.

While the roast is resting, use a metal spatula to scrape up the drippings in the roasting pan. Use the drippings to make a gravy, or use just the drippings themselves to serve with the lamb.

Serves 8 to 10.

Keywords: food, lamb, red wine, rioja, tempranillo, pinot noir, rose champagne, orange juice, garlic, clove, rosemary, thyme, pepper, olive oil, meat,