Shifting to Lamb

LambTurkey and ham are not the only meats fit for your holiday table. Lamb can be just as festive, and it has the added benefit of bringing new flavors to your celebration. Take a look at this lamb recipe and see how it can give your menu a welcome lift.

Slow Roasted Leg of Lamb

In the Serious Eats website, Managing Culinary Director J. Kenji López-Alt shares a truly scrumptious recipe for Slow-Roasted Boneless Leg of Lamb with Garlic, Rosemary, and Lemon. He says the recipe works because: “Slow-roasted boneless leg of lamb comes out extra tender with a crisp, well-browned crust and juicy pink meat flavored with garlic, rosemary, and lemon zest.

“Cooking at very low temperatures followed by a blast at high heat creates the ultimate contrast with pink meat that extends from edge to edge and a crisp brown crust. It also enhances tenderness.

“Par-cooking a rub made with garlic, rosemary, lemon zest, and anchovies ensures that raw, steamed flavors don’t last. Anchovies in the marinade bring out the meatiness of the lamb without overwhelming with any kind of fishy aroma.”


The ingredients for this recipe include two tablespoons olive oil (extra-virgin), one tablespoon minced garlic, ½ cup minced shallot, six anchovy filets (makes about three tablespoons), two tablespoons minced fresh rosemary leaves, zest of one lemon, half a teaspoon red pepper flakes, two tablespoons kosher salt, half a teaspoon of freshly ground black pepper, and one boneless leg of lamb, butterflied, all internal fat and connective tissue removed. Your lamb should weigh about 10 to 12 pounds.

For best results, instructions specify that you “Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and preheat oven to 275°F.”

For the rub, “Heat olive oil in a small saucepan over medium heat until shimmering. Add garlic, shallot, anchovies, rosemary, lemon zest, and red pepper flakes. Cook, stirring occasionally, until shallots and garlic are softened, about 5 minutes. Transfer to a small bowl. Add salt and pepper and mix with a fork to combine.”

Preparing and Cooking

Half of the mixture is to be rubbed onto the inside of the lamb; the butterflied meat is then to be rolled and tied securely at one-inch intervals. The remaining half of the mixture is to be rubbed over the external portion of the lamb. Allow flavors to seep through by refrigerating the lamb for a few hours.

To cook, J. Kenji López-Alt advises readers to Place lamb on a wire rack set in a foil-lined rimmed baking sheet. Transfer to oven and roast until an instant read thermometer inserted into coolest section of lamb registers 125° to 130°F for medium-rare, or 130° to 135°F for medium, 3 to 3 1/2 hours. Remove from oven and let rest for 40 minutes.”

Here’s what you need to do to finish cooking and develop a much-coveted golden crust. “While lamb is resting, increase oven temperature to 500°F. Return lamb to oven and roast until exterior is deep brown and crisp, about 15 minutes. Remove from oven and let rest 5 minutes. Remove twine with kitchen shears, transfer lamb to cutting board, slice into 1/4 inch slices, and serve.”

Wine Pairings

You can’t go wrong if you pair your roast lamb with what Fiona Beckett recommends in Matching Food & Wine:” The way many households would prepare a leg of lamb for a multi-generational family get-together. This is more robust treatment than the above which would work better with a younger, more fruit-driven wine such as a younger red Bordeaux, Cabernet or Cabernet/Merlot blend, a Rioja reserva, a Chianti Classico or a northern Rhône red. (The same goes for lamb shanks cooked in red wine.)”

Other options include Pinot Noir, cru Beaujolais, or dry rosé. These choices are good, but if you really want to make a special meal with your lamb, no one is stopping you from opening a bottle of vintage rosé Champagne. Now that would make your meal a feast!

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