Monday, May 26, 2014

Extra Special 7-hour Leg of Lamb

Extra Special 7-hour Leg of Lamb

Since I need to learn how to cook lamb  I thought I’d begin with the sirloin end of a leg of lamb which is the upper end near the hip joint.  Most of ours weight between 1.5 and 2 lbs and all of them are bone-in.  The bones make it challenging to de-bone but because it is the sirloin, it is more tender than the shank end of the leg.  Because our lambs tend to be lean and have a light fat cover, we still recommend a moist cooking method such as roasting with liquid in the pan.  I’ve found a recipe that promises both simplicity and mouth-watering goodness.

Extra Special 7-hour Leg of Lamb
by Chef Alex Levine, Whole Earth Center

1 bone-in leg of lamb roast, half or whole.  There should be some fat on the roast.
Olive oil for browning the leg
1 large onion, cut into 1 inch cubes
1 carrot, cut into 1 inch cubes
1 celery, cut into 1 inch cubes
2 cloves garlic, peeled and thinly sliced
1 cup white or red wine, per your preference
1 ½ cups crushed or diced canned tomatoes (or fresh if in season!)
A couple of teaspoons of herbs: some combination of thyme, oregano, rosemary, fresh or dried, or perhaps some Herbes de Provence.
Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper

  1. Remove lamb from refrigerator, uncover, and let sit at room temperature for 30 minutes to an hour.
  2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees with rack positioned to fit the lamb.
  3. In a large casserole that can go into the oven, heat up a little olive oil. Sprinkle the lamb with olive oil, salt, and pepper, and brown from all sides. Remove lamb from the pan to a platter and add the onion, carrot, celery and garlic. Cook over medium-low heat until the vegetables start to soften.
  4. Add the wine and scrape the bottom of the pan to remove any leftover brown flavorful bits. Mix in herbs and tomato product.  Return the lamb to the roasting pan with any pan juices. Cover the pan.
  5. Cover the casserole and place in the oven. Cook for 20 to 30 minutes, reduce the oven temperature to 250 degrees, and roast for 3-4 hours.
  6. Remove pan from oven and increase oven temperature to 450. Transfer lamb to a plate and cover to keep warm.  Remove the vegetables from the casserole with a slotted spoon and reserve them for the sauce. Strain cooking liquid into a fat separator or glass measuring cup; spoon off any fat that rises to the surface and discard.
  7. Spread a bit of olive oil on the bottom of your casserole, and return roast, uncovered to the hot oven.
  8. Make the sauce: combine the cooking liquid and reserved vegetables in a small saucepan and purée.  Add a tablespoon of butter or heavy cream, if that’s the sort of cook you are.  Keep sauce warm.
  9. When the lamb is crisped up and – if there’s a layer of fat on it – sizzling, remove it from the oven. Carve lamb and arrange slices on a large warm platter. Drizzle with sauce before serving, or serve the sauce on the side.
  10. If the whole carving thing is too elegant, place the meat, right in its casserole, on a trivet on the middle of the table, and have your family or guests remove hunks of meat from the roast with a pair of tongs.  Yes, it’s that tender.

Alternative Method (Margaret’s)

Does your crock pot come apart into a base and a ceramic and glass lidded crock?  Perfect!  (If not, use an appropriately sized casserole and foil as described in the recipe and transfer between oven and pre-heated crock-pot quickly.)  Use the crock as your casserole dish.  The lid substitutes for the foil cover.  After the initial roasting, move the crockpot out of the oven and onto it’s regular base.  Set it to high and come back in about 4 hours or when it is nearly as done as you like it.  In our case and as most recommend, keep lamb somewhere between rare and medium done-ness.  When you are close to that point, pick back up with the recipe by getting your oven heated to 450 and leave the lid off.

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