Most people think of a big, baked ham as the centerpiece of their Easter dinner, but even though I do still like ham, to be honest I am getting somewhat tired of it.
Lately I have been thinking about replacing the Easter ham with a succulent and savory roasted or grilled leg of lamb. My sister tried it once for her Easter dinner and it was a big hit. I suppose, though, that serving lamb on Easter is almost like serving rabbit meat on the same holiday! My family actually did that, because my dad raised rabbits for meat. He would barbecue rabbits for Easter, but we didn't tell the kids what it was! (Yes, I realize this sounds almost evil, but keep in mind that this was "ranch life"). Sometimes it was hard for me, an animal lover who tried to make pets out of everything domestic or wild.
Anyway, if you are also a bit tired of ham, ham, ham every Easter, why not consider featuring a tasty leg of lamb this year?
Rosemary and garlic leg of lamb
- 1 leg of lamb, bone in (about 6 to 7 1/2 pounds)
- 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
- 10 cloves garlic, crushed or minced
- 1/4 cup fresh rosemary leaves, chopped
- 1 tablespoon salt
- 2 teaspoons black pepper, coarsely ground
- 1 cup fresh herbs (combination of rosemary, chives and parsley)
- 2 cups onions, diced
- 2 cups chicken stock
- 1 cup red wine
- Preheat oven to 400. Using your hands, rub the leg of lamb with the lemon juice, coating all over. Pat the garlic and 1/4 cup rosemary evenly over the surface of the meat. Season meat with salt and pepper and place in a roasting pan.
- Roast the leg of lamb for 30 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 350 and continue to cook for about 1 hour longer for medium-rare, or until a meat thermometer inserted into the center of the roast registers about 145 to 150 degrees. Take care that the thermometer does not touch the bone while inserted.
- Remove roast from pan and allow to rest for 10 to 15 minutes before carving.
- For the sauce, position the roasting pan over the stove burners. Add 1 cup of mixed herbs and the onions to pan and stir to mix with drippings. Add chicken stock and wine to deglaze the pan, scraping with wooden spoon to release all the bits. Reduce the mixture over high heat, stirring occasionally, until the sauce is desired consistency. Strain sauce.
- Slice leg of lamb and serve with sauce drizzled over the top. Makes 6 to 8 servings.
Grilled butterflied leg of lamb
- 1/2 onion
- 4 cloves garlic, peeled
- 2 tablespoons fresh rosemary leaves, or 1 tablespoon dried
- Zest of 1 lemon
- 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- 1 boneless leg of lamb, 5 to 6 pounds, butterflied
- Put onion, garlic, rosemary, lemon zest, apple cider vinegar and olive oil into a food processor and pulse to combine.
- Sprinkle a generous amount of salt and pepper over the lamb. Place marinade and lamb into a 1-gallon freezer bag. Spread marinade over all sides of the meat. Seal the bag and refrigerate for 1 to 2 hours.
- Remove lamb from refrigerator and let come to room temperature. When ready to put on grill, remove from marinade bag. To help make the lamb easier to turn on the grill you can insert a couple of skewers through the lamb, crosswise.
- Prepare grill. If you are using a charcoal grill, prepare the coals so that they are double layered on one side of the grill, and sparsely single layered on the other side of the grill (this is called "banked" grilling). If you are using a gas grill, heat the grill on high on all burners to start. After the initial browning you will reduce the heat.
- Place the lamb, fat side down, on the grill on the hot side (double layer charcoals). You will likely get flareups, so be prepared with a squirt bottle of water or a couple of cups of water (if using a charcoal grill) to control the flames if needed.
- Sear one side for 4 minutes, then flip the lamb over to sear the other side for another 4 minutes. Then, if you are using a charcoal grill, move the roast to the less hot side of the grill. If you are using a gas grill, lower the heat to low. You will want to maintain a temperature of 300 to 350 degrees. Cover the grill and let cook for an additional 35 to 45 minutes (depending on how thick, and how many pounds the roast is), until a meat thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the roast registers 130 to 135 degrees for rare and 140 to 145 for medium-rare. Makes 8 to 10 servings.
Rotisserie roasted leg of lamb
If you have an electric rotisserie, such as the type made by Ronco, you can cook a tasty leg of lamb in it.
- 1 boneless leg of lamb, about 6 1/2 pounds
- 6 cloves garlic, slivered
- 12 sprigs fresh rosemary, cut into 1- to 2-inch pieces
- 1 lemon
- Kosher salt and pepper, to taste
- Remove leg of lamb from refrigerator at least 1 hour before preparing. Heat the rotisserie.
- Using a small, sharp paring knife, slide the knife between the outside layer of fat and the meat. Insert garlic slivers and sprigs of rosemary. Make about 24 slits all over the leg of lamb (depending on size).
- Squeeze the lemon all over the lamb, then generously salt and pepper the meat. Skewer the roast.
- Roast the leg of lamb 20 minutes per pound for medium, which should yield a crisp, browned outer crust and a rosy-pink center. (I would check the roast after 15 minutes per pound, just to make sure it doesn't end up over-cooked.) Let roast sit a few minutes before carving into slices.