Thursday, January 16th, 2014
in January of 2013 I made this luscious leg of lamb based on a recipe I found in Food and Wine Magazine. The semi boneless leg of lamb is rubbed with Hirassa before roasting then topped with apricots, lemon slices and olives to finsh. There are not too many specialty food stores in Habersham County so I ordered a jar of Harissa from Amazon. After preparing the lamb the jar of Harissa sat in the refrigerator for 8 month. There was no way to tell if the paste was still good. You know how it is? You think it should still be good but you don’t use it in case it isn’t and you don’t throw it away incase it is. Something that doesn’t grow mold on it can stay in your refrigerator like that for years.
As Thanksgiving approached I needed all the space I could muster in the fridge, the Harissa was out. In early January I found organic powered Harissa at Whole Foods. This was great. Leave the dried spice in the cupboard for a year or so mixing it with water of olive oil to make the paste when needed. Armed with the dry Harissa I decided to make the Leg of Lamb again.
The price of Lamb at the local market was $8/pound with the bone in. Costco had boneless leg of lamb at $5/pound. Yes, it looks better with the shank bone intact but saving $3/pound placed esthetics on the back burner. The dish is extremely easy to make and a 4.25 pound boneless leg of lamb will feed six people. Feed four people and you have some nice leftovers.
PREPARING THE LAMB: Recipe for a 4 to 6 pound boneless leg of lamb. Slice a couple of big garlic cloves very thinly. Pock holes in the lamb with a thin bladed knife and bury a sliver of garlic in each slit. Keep stuffing until you run out of garlic.
Mix the Harissa. Mix 1Tablespoon of the dried spice with 1 Tablespoon of water. The recipe said to rub olive oil over the lamb so I decided to save a step by adding 1Tablespoon of olive oil to the Harissa mixture. I can’t think of lamb without thinking of mint jelly so I added a ¼ cup of my homemade mint jelly to the mixture. If it gets too thin, add addition Harissa to thicken. Of course if you live next to a Tunisian grocery store pick up a jar of the paste.
Sprinkle the lamb with some kosher salt and rub the Harissa/mint jelly paste all over the surface, front and back, remembering to force some into the garlic pockets. Since the bone has been removed the leg is butterflied. Tie the leg together so it resembles a pot roast. Place on a rack in a roasting pan and refrigerate over night.
Slice a lemon very thinly. On a plate sprinkle with 1TBL of salt and 1TBL of sugar. Place the lemon slices on top of the salt and sugar and add another 1TBL of salt and 1TBL of sugar on top of the lemon slices. Drizzle a little olive oil over the slices and cover with cling wrap and refrigerate over night. The hard work is done.
A couple of hours before you want to start roasting, take the lamb out of the refrigerator and allow to sit at room temperature. Rinse off the lemon slices and dry on paper towels. Put two cups of water in the bottom of the roasting pan and place the lamb in a 325 degree oven for an hour and a half. Take the roast off the rack and return it to the pan. Place the lemons along with a cup of pitted olives (kalamata or oil cured) and 10 ounces of dried apricots in the roasting pan with the pan drippings. Return the lamb to the oven and continue to roast for another 20-30 minutes or until the internal temperature of the lamb is 135-140 degrees. If you like your lamb rare cook to 130 degrees. The roast is still bright pink at 140 degrees. Let the roast sit for at least 20 minutes before slicing.
I like gravy with my meat so I made a gravy flavored with mint jelly and bourbon. I’ll use Wagner’s demi-glaze package mix. It’s simple and easy to create variations with the sauce. Instead of just adding a cup of water, I added 1/2 cup of water, 1/4 cup single barrel Jack Daniels and 1/4 cup of my mint jelly. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for about 5 minutes. Set aside and reheat right before you serve the lamb passing the sauce in a gravy boat.
This lamb is great cold the next day and the next. I sliced up a medium onion and browned it in olive oil and butter. Then I added 1/2 cup of Trader Joe’s mango and ginger chutney. Cook until you have a nice glaze. Place on a plate and refrigerate for a couple of hours or if you think ahead, make it the day before. Spread a little mayo on toasted rye bread, add sliced lamb, some of the onion chutney and some lettuce. Close it up and go at it. Fantastic sandwich.
Posted by Vinny Verelli
Funny Motivational Speaker and Celebrity Chef