Wednesday, February 11, 2009

62. Roast Leg of Lamb

Date Cooked: January 25, 2009
Page: 494
Rating: A

I’m proud of this one. A short time ago I was thinking how there are several chapters that I have not yet attempted to cook much from. Cake was one which I did a short bit ago and Lamb was another one I was eyeing. For whatever reason the roast leg of lamb caught my attention and for several weeks I had been wanting to prepare it. Most local grocery stores only sold frozen New Zealand lamb and the sizes were small. I could never find fresh lamb. Well that all changed the day before I cooked this.

My wife and I decided to head into Toronto, with the kids, to the St. Lawrence Market. There are several butchers there and I knew I would find what I wanted. I was specifically looking for a 6 lbs leg of lamb with the bone still in it. I needed the bones for the piquant caper sauce plus I want to learn a bit more about the preparation of a roast that only hands on practice can help you with. Most of the butchers sold fresh Ontario lamb that was boneless, trimmed of most fat and vacuum packed. I wanted a more rugged experience so I finally settled on a roast that was about 5 ½ pounds, encased in fat and with the bone still in it.

Once home with the roast I left it wrapped in the fridge overnight before taking it out the next morning to begin trimming. This is where my university anatomy classes kicked in. The book recommends that the butcher remove that aitch bone (hip bone). Well this were still in the roast and I would have to do the work. So out came the knife… and I had no clue where to start. I poked and prodded the roast trying to figure out the best approach. After paying the money I did for the roast I didn’t really want to mangle it so I took my time trimming carefully and trying to keep the knife close to the bone. I slowly exposed the hip joint and with a rather barbaric flourish I popped the hip bone out. Once that was completed it was much easier to trim around the irregular shaped aitchbone. The book recommends leaving the shank bone in but since my roast was not a complete leg the shank bone was cut so I removed that as well. I now had a boneless leg of lamb.

When the bones were removed I trimmed some fat and then re-wrapped it. If only that was the end of it. I was reading the book further as it discusses the lamb roasts in general and it talks about how lamb fat is not a good thing. It renders tough and can be strong and unpleasant tasting so it recommends removing as much of the fat as possible. Plus there is a lymph node in the leg roast which needs to be removed. So out came the roast again.

At this point I have probably spent 30 minutes trimming this thing down and with every cut of the knife I get fearful that the roast won’t be enough for four adults (we are hungry adults). Carefully slicing away fat I am vigilantly looking out for this lymph node. I was starting to think it wasn’t in the roast until I cut away some fat and there it was, a little grey nugget, the lymph node. Once removed and a final pass of the roast for any stray fat I was very pleased and much more relaxed about how the roast was going to turn out… well hoped it would turn out. As a point to share with everyone, at this point my hands reeked of strong smelling lamb fat. It wasn’t pleasant and no amount of scrubbing with floral smelling hand soap was getting this stink off. It wasn’t turning my off or anything. I just avoided smelling my hands.

Now that the roast was trimmed it was time to season it and tie it tight (the bone removal process left a little to be desired in the muscular integrity of the leg). Some basic rosemary, salt and pepper were rubbed all over the roast and some garlic slivers where pushed into the meat. I tied the roast tight, coated with some oil, and placed it in the roasting pan to rest for 30 minutes to allowing it to reach room temperature and letting the flavors meld with the meat.

The easiest part of the experience was to roast the lamb. The first 10 minutes in the oven were at 450 degrees before the temperature was reduced and the leg was rotated every 20 minutes until done. It took just under an hour to complete the roast. I removed the roast from the pan, tented it with foil and let it rest while I prepared the piquant caper sauce.

When I finally carved into the roast it was a beautiful shade of pink and cut with ease. Once plated it was time to eat!

Rating: A. It was outstanding. The roast turned out full of flavor and perfectly cooked. I was pretty amazed at the results. I’m going to have to stretch here for something I would improve with the final result, maybe smaller slices of garlic in the meat. You can see in the picture a few around the edges. They almost look like gristle. I think the compliment that made me most proud was that my wife felt it was better than any lamb she had eaten in a restaurant and trumped her dinner out with her mom the night before. I will definitely roast lamb again and probably continue to remove the bones myself. I honestly enjoyed prepping the roast (except for the lingering smell of lamb fat on my hands that took some time to fade). Lamb doesn’t intimidate me anymore.


  1. Congratulations on the lamb! I would agree, not as intimidating and totally worth the effort.


  2. This took the hands of a surgeon but it sounds and looks wonderful.

  3. Well done! I've done the bone removal once and it isn't easy.


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