Alex Hitz's Roast Leg of Lamb and Mashed Peas
This simple, hearty feast can go from any day to holiday with ease.
If this dish doesn't have a sense of occasion, I'm not sure what does. This gorgeous and impressive roast is special and elegant enough to say "Easter dinner," yet easy enough for just another Tuesday night at home. Whether it's a holiday or not, I can assure you few other presentations command the ceremony and awe a perfectly roasted leg of lamb straight from the oven does. Total crowd-pleaser — mark my words.
I know you'll be tempted to carve the meat right away, but I can't tell you how crucial it is to let it rest after it's cooked. I find that 15 minutes of resting is just about ideal to achieve the perfect pink and succulent medium temperature I love for lamb.
Personally, I don't like medium-rare lamb, but if you do, cook it about 10 to 12 minutes less than called for in the recipe here, and let it rest the same 15 minutes. If you're going for well-done, just let the lamb rest a bit longer — 30 to 40 minutes — as it will continue to cook out of the oven. I know that everyone has his or her own preference, but trust me, medium really is just right for this lamb. Follow these directions, and I promise you'll be happy.
Remember that everyone's oven is slightly different. If you think your oven might be a bit off, use a meat thermometer — when the roast comes out of the oven, its internal temperature should read 145 to 150 degrees — and please insert an oven-safe one into the lamb before you cook it so you're not poking that incredible roast later and letting all those delicious juices seep out. For shame!
Here are a few more pointers to ensure success: Before you start to cook, have all the ingredients measured and ready to go. And while the lamb is in the oven, prepare the peas and set up a mise en place for the sauce — that way, when the roast comes out, you can make the sauce while it rests.
Speaking of the sauce: It's incredible! And easy. I love it on the mashed peas, too, which are so simple and delicious that there's really nothing else to say about them.
ROAST LEG OF LAMB AND MASHED PEAS
For the Lamb:
1 leg of lamb, bone in, about 6½ to 7 pounds
¼ cup 1-2-3 vinaigrette (1 part Dijon mustard, 2 parts lemon juice, 3 parts olive oil; salt and pepper to taste)
¼ cup fresh lemon juice
16 cloves garlic, 8 whole, 8 minced
½ cup fresh rosemary leaves
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon coarsely ground black pepper
1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
2. Season the lamb with salt and pepper evenly on all sides. Mix the lemon juice and the vinaigrette together. Using a pastry brush, baste the lamb with the lemon juice-vinaigrette mixture.
3. Cut 8 small slits with a paring knife in random places in the lamb, and insert the 8 whole cloves of garlic. Process the minced garlic and the rosemary together in a food processor until it is chunky but not yet pureed and pat the mixture over the lamb. Put the lamb in a roasting pan and roast for 30 minutes.
4. Reduce the oven heat to 350 and roast the lamb for 1 more hour for medium (an internal temperature of 145-150 degrees when measured with a meat thermometer). Remove the lamb from the roasting pan and let it rest for 15 minutes before carving.
For the Sauce
1 cup chopped parsley
½ cup chopped chives
2 tablespoons chopped rosemary
4 cups diced onions
1 clove garlic, minced
3 cups chicken stock, divided
1 cup red wine, divided
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon ground black pepper
1 tablespoon sherry
3 tablespoons butter, cold, cut into small pieces
Once the lamb has been removed from the roasting pan, position the pan over the burners on your stove.
1. Over low heat, add the herbs, onions, and garlic. Stir to combine with the pan drippings. Add half of the chicken stock and wine to deglaze the pan, scraping the bottom constantly to remove the cooked bits.
2. Pour the mixture into a heavy saucepan with the rest of the stock and wine, the salt, the ground black pepper, and the sherry. Reduce the mixture over a high heat until it has the consistency of sauce, approximately 15 minutes.
3. Strain through a fine sieve and remove the liquid to a mixing bowl. Whisk in the cold butter and serve with the carved lamb.
For the Mashed Peas
1 package frozen peas (16 oz.)
1 package frozen peas and pearl onions (16 oz.)
2 tablespoons heavy cream
2 tablespoons salted butter, melted
¼ teaspoon salt
⅛ teaspoon ground black pepper
1. In two separate small saucepans, thaw the frozen peas and the frozen peas and pearl onions over low heat until just warm.
2. In a food processor fitted with a metal blade, puree the peas and heavy cream until smooth. Do not puree the peas and pearl onions.
3. In a medium-size mixing bowl, stir the pureed peas into the whole peas and pearl onions, along with the melted butter, salt, and pepper. Transfer mixture to a covered baking dish and reheat in the 350-degree oven while the lamb rests.
Photo by Luca Trovato