Basic Roast Leg of Lamb, with Herbs and Searing Options

Leg of Lamb (Shank) and Lamb Rack

Leg of Lamb (Shank) and Lamb Rack

By Cat, Nov 2010 (Photo, right, from Wikimedia Commons)

When I retired and moved back to Montana from Portland Oregon, I had much more time to experiment with recipes. My local grocer regularly stocked the meat case with lamb cuts including boneless leg of lamb, boned and tied, from Superior Farms.

I’d never cooked a leg of lamb before (though I’d had it many times at my favorite Greek restaurants in Portland) so did a bit of research online and combined that with a recipe that came with the Superior Farms roast, and came up with this basic recipe.

I learned that searing the meat before roasting improves/enhances its flavor and the color of any sauce made from the drippings. It can be done on stovetop or in the oven, so I started with oven searing for this recipe. (See Lamb Roast with Garlic & Rosemary for instructions on stove-top sear, which provides more flavorful dripping and browned bits).

Another option is to do a reverse-sear, meaning you sear it after the roast has mostly cooked.

Roast Leg of Lamb, with Herbs (for example, Garlic & Rosemary) and Searing and Slow-Roast Options

I’ve adapted this recipe from Superior Farms, the source of my first leg of lamb (1)  with things from Serious Eats (2) and What’s Cooking America (3). Lamb Roast with Garlic & Rosemary, and Optional Mint Sauce is very similar but includes a Deglaze Sauce or Mint Sauce.

This was my first experiment with a boneless leg of lamb roast, and it was a great success. (Nov 28, 2010). However, the one I purchased was butterflied but not rolled and tied. I seasoned all sides of the roast and then rolled and secured it with steel turkey-trussers. This allowed seasoning in the middle of the roll, which is a good idea, I think.

The roast did produce a lot of fat in the bottom of the pan, but since the roast was supported on top of the veggies, it was not greasy.

This basic recipe sears the roast in the oven at 425°F, then roasts at 325°F; if you want to do a slow-roast, use a temperature at or below 300°F, and add a bit of moisture to the pan (water or broth/stock). Alternately, you can do a reverse-sear instead of searing prior to roasting; see Reverse-Sear Roast Method (About) for more.

If you are put-off by the wild flavor of lamb, or have never roasted a lamb before, you might be surprised at how the choice of herbs/spices can improve the flavor of the roasted meat. Especially those spices one normally associates with baked goods (cookies, etc), such as allspice, cinnamon or nutmeg, which turn that wild flavor into something amazing.

I think that yukon potatoes cut into wedges and seasoned with salt and pepper would make an excellent addition to the veggies in the bottom of the pan. However, because the roast cooks in less time than required for potatoes, it would be a good idea to parboil or steam them a bit before seasoning and adding to the roasting pan. The fat that drips off the meat will give them a wonderful flavor.

Ingredients & Equipment:

  • 3 – 4 lb boneless leg of lamb, rolled & tied
  • 2 (or more) cloves of garlic
  • Unrefined sea salt (to season at the table)
  • Herb-spice mix: 
  • 1 – 2 tsp dried rosemary, crushed (or other herbs/spices, such as oregano, thyme, chervil, coriander, cumin, allspice, cinnamon, and so on)
  • Freshly ground black pepper (grind with rosemary and other herbs if desired)
  • Veggies:
  • 2 or 3 carrots
  • 1 or 2 celery stalks
  • 1 onion
  • ¼ cup Vermouth
  • Equipment
  • Roasting pan

Method:

  1. Prep: Remove lamb from fridge to warm to room temperature about 1 -2 hours before roasting. Loosely cover the lamb when you remove it from the fridge.
  2. Herbs: Crush dried herbs (if using), and mix with spices (if using). If desired, you can mix the crushed herbs/spices with some butter, for easier rubbing into the meat.
  3. Preheat oven to:
  4. Lamb Prep: Peel garlic and slice into thin slivers. Insert each into a tiny slits in the meat. Tie up the cut and sprinkle with pepper on all sides (save the salt for seasoning at the table – salting the meat before cooking pulls out the liquids from the meat that would otherwise flavor it (3)), followed by a rub of crushed dried rosemary or other herb(s). Another option is to grind the pepper with the rosemary and other herbs.
  5. Veggies: Cut carrots and celery stalks into 1″ pieces, cut onion into 1″ wedges.
  6. You can also add potato wedges, but parboil them first, about 5 – 10 minutes, depending on size. If using my Roasted Potatoes with Garlic & Rosemary recipe, scatter rosemary and pressed garlic over potatoes, add a bit of olive oil and toss to combine.
  7. Sear: (Skip this step if you plan to reverse-sear). Set roast on top of veggies with fatty-side up; add water/broth and bay leaf. Sear in preheated oven for 15 minutes. Or sear in oil on stove-top about 3 minutes per side. Remove to plate;
  8. Scatter prepped veggies all over bottom of roasting pan and sauté about 5 minutes
  9. Roast: If seared in oven, reduce oven temperature to 325° F (leave at 300°F if doing a reverse sear), or reduce to 200° – 300°F for slow-roasting. Cooking times are for rare.
    • If seared on stove-top or in oven: Roast about 35 – 45 minutes, until roast reaches internal temperature of 125°F – 165°F (varies with cut and desired doneness).
    • If planning to reverse sear; roast to internal temperature of 110 – 115°F.
    • If slow roasting at 200°F, it will take about 1 ½ hours to reach 115°F (2).  Remove from oven, tent with foil and let rest up to 2 hours.
  10. If doing reverse-sear:
    • On stovetop: sear on all sides  in hot fat (I use lard);
    • Or in oven: increase oven to 475°F and sear to internal temperature of 125°F for rare or 130°F for medium rare.
  11. Rest: Remove roast to cutting board to rest for 10 minutes; during this time, the internal temp will climb about 5 degrees. At this temperature, is is nicely rare and incredibly juicy. The onions that roasted under the meat are delicious too.

Testing

11/12/15: Used 2 lb bone-in leg of lamb. Embedded slices of garlic in the meat, then seasoned with rosemary, allspice, salt and pepper. Parboiled 2 yukon gold potatoes (cut into wedges),  1 large carrot (cut into 1″ sections), and half red onion, cut into wedges. Used potatoes for roasting separately (see Roasted Potatoes with Garlic & Rosemary). Tossed remaining veggies with olive oil, garlic and mix of rosemary, allspice and black pepper. Placed  veggies in bottom of roasting pan in one layer. Placed seasoned roast on top and into 425°F oven at 6:25 PM to sear. At 6:45 (20 minutes to sear), reduced oven to 325°F; only 120°F internal temperature at 7:15 (30 min); 122°F  at 7:25;  128°F at 7:33 PM (18 minutes); veggies are tender. Removed from oven to rest, lightly covered with foil, until about 7:45. Carved and served at 8 PM, with the roasted potatoes, braised lima beans and broccolini, and cooked beetroot. Result: The lamb is medium rare (just as I like it) and delicious; rosemary, garlic and allspice are an excellent flavoring combo; roasted veggies are also delicious, but the onion wasn’t quite done. Next time, sauté lightly before adding to other veggies. The braised lima beans with broccolini is an excellent accompaniment.

3/11/16: Testing reverse sear with 2 lb bone-in leg of lamb roast. Rubbed with rosemary, allspice, salt and pepper that I ground together in my mortar (about 2 tsp, ground). Parboiled 2 potatoes and cut into quarters; added pieces from 1 carrot, half a fennel bulb, and ¼ sweet onion, and tossed with dressing (3 Tbsp each lemon juice and olive oil, seasoned with oregano, salt and pepper). Placed veggies in bottom of roasting pan; set roast on top and into 300° F oven at 4:38 PM. Reached 115° at 6:00 PM (1 hr 22 min). Removed roast to platter and tented to rest about 1 hour. Returned veggies to oven to finish roasting, and returned roast to oven at 7:00 PM. Reached 125°F at 7:20 PM (20 min). Total cooking time, 1 hr, 42 min. Meat had reached temp on the top, but was still quite rare no the bottom. Next time, turn it over halfway through the sear, or sear on stovetop. Result: The herbs are delicious; meat was tender and tasty. Veggies were good, too, but got scorched during the sear.

6/24/18 testing of 3 lb bone-in leg of lamb and Roasted Potatoes with Garlic & Rosemary. Used same rub as previous test but without salt (3); cut up 1 carrot and sliced ¾ of a large red onion. Prepped good-sized Yukon gold potato separately, but rated both in oven, side-by-side, as detailed below

  • Lamb: Used my blue French oven for searing and roasting. Removed roast from fridge to warm to room temp at 4:30 PM. Studded with garlic and rubbed herb/spice mix over, then seared on stove-top in warmed coconut oil on the two non-fatty sides. Removed roast to plate, added veggies to pot and sautéed about 7 minutes; added Vermouth to deglaze, then set seared roast on top of veggies and placed in 350°F preheated oven, without lid to roast at 6:10 PM next to the potatoes. Meat up to only 100°F at 6:45; 120°F at 7 PM; 125°F at 7:15 PM so removed to plate, to rest for 10 mo before carving
  • Potato: steamed whole for 10 min, then cut into quarters lengthwise and then in half cross-wise for eight 2″ long wedges. Placed in small Corningware oblong casserole, sprinkled olive oil over, then herb/spice mix (rosemary, granulated garlic, and salt), and squirted lemon juice over. Into preheated 350°F oven at 6 PM. Done at 7 PM so covered with parchment & foil and kept in oven, then removed with roast at 7:15 and kept warm on top of warm stove.
  • Served with braised lima beans and sliced fennel bulb, and with some of the carrot/onion mix cooked with the lamb
  • Result: First taste: not salty. Delicious after I sprinkled meat with salt. Potatoes and veggies are good, too.

References

  1. Superior Farms Recipes (superiorfarms.com)
  2. Serious Eats: seriouseats.com/2014/12/how-to-cook-crown-rack-of-lamb-holiday-roast.html
  3. What’s Cooking America: whatscookingamerica.net/Lamb/Roast_Boneless-LegLamb.htm

About Cat

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