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Roasted Whole Leg of Lamb

Serves 8 to 10

Lamb is probably my favorite red meat. Although chops and the rack are extra special cuts, I often buy a whole leg because it is more economical and serves several purposes. First, of course, is the large roast, as in this recipe, and the leftovers are equally good (see the similar and related recipes links). But the meat can also be removed from the bones before cooking and either butterflied for the grill or oven, cut into a several small roasts, used for stew meat, or ground for scrumptious burgers. The bones make a great stock for soup. For those of you who remember days past when lamb at any time except spring had a very strong flavor because the animals were too old (older meat is called mutton), those days are gone. So do not be afraid to make lamb any time of the year.

Ingredients

Prepare leg by removing most of the visible fat. Cut about 20 slits into top of roast with a small, sharp knife. Insert garlic clove into each slit and push down with finger until no longer visible. Rub the herbs, salt and pepper all over surface of meat. Do the same with the olive oil. Splash with wine or lemon juice and rub again. Cover and let lamb marinate in the refrigerator for at least 3 hours or overnight. Remove from refrigerator about 1 hour before roasting.

Preheat oven to 450° F. Place lamb in a shallow roasting pan. Roast for 15 minutes for initial searing, then reduce temperature to 350° and continue to roast 8 minutes per pound for medium-rare or 10 minutes per pound for medium. Baste occasionally with pan juices or additional wine or water.

Remove roast from oven when done, tent with foil and let rest 15-20 minutes before carving. Meanwhile, reduce the liquids in the pan and deglaze to get all the flavorful bits. Add wine or water if needed. Taste for seasoning. Slice meat and serve immediately, passing pan juices separately.

Notes: It is a very good idea to use an instant meat thermometer to make sure that the meat is the desired doneness. For lamb, medium-rare is 135° and medium is 145°. The temperature of the meat will continue to rise while it is resting. Also, keep in mind that some portions of the leg will cook faster than others, so a variety of degrees of doneness can be achieved to suit the preferences of your guests. In my opinion, lamb leg is best medium-rare and should never be cooked beyond medium.