- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 19, 2008

It wasn’t so long ago that springtime signaled the time to cook lamb. Now lamb is available year-round, with New Zealand and Australia supplying our markets for much of the year. Unfortunately, the imported lamb is usually sold frozen.

American lamb also is available year round. You’ll find it to be young, sweet and very tender.

Lamb must be sold before it is one year old or it cannot be called lamb, but rather mutton, which Americans consider tough and unappetizing.

In selecting a tasty leg of lamb, look at the color, a good indicator of age. The lighter the color, the younger the meat.

Baby lamb should be pale pink. Regular lamb is pinkish-red. The redder it is, the older it is.

I prefer American lamb for this recipe, as its light flavor is easily infused with the savory herb glaze. Remember that most American sheep are grain-fed rather than free-range-fed, so that their flavor will be milder than New Zealand or Australian lamb.

This leg of lamb recipe couldn’t be easier to prepare.

Make the glaze, coat the lamb with it and roast.

Now we are talking Seriously Simple.

I like to use this glaze as a base and add another flavor if I am in the mood.

I’ll add a tablespoon or two of orange honey or a bit of red wine to the glaze depending upon my mood and what else I might be serving. Make sure to have the butcher “French” the bone as in the photograph. It is a beautiful presentation.

Serve this wonderful roasted lamb with a baked potato dish such as potatoes gratin or potatoes savoyarde and some roasted asparagus or steamed green beans.

Accompany this with a full-bodied zinfandel, a Rhone-style red, or Merlot.

Help is on the way:

• When roasting lamb, always have some liquid on the bottom of the pan to prevent it from burning.

• Select your favorite mustard and herb combination to personalize this classic family pleaser.

• Use chicken or beef stock instead of water to deglaze the pan

• Try my favorite herb, pineapple sage, with the mustard for the glaze.

• Use leftover lamb for sandwiches, salads or pasta

Roast leg of lamb with mustard herb glaze

GLAZE:

1/4 cup Dijon mustard

2 teaspoons soy sauce

3 garlic cloves, minced

3/4 teaspoon dried thyme leaves

1½ teaspoons dried basil leaves

2 teaspoons olive oil

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

LAMB:

5- to 6-pound leg of lamb, fat trimmed

2½ cups water

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. To make the glaze, combine all the ingredients for the glaze in a small mixing bowl and mix well.

Dry the lamb with paper towels and place on a rack in a roasting pan.

Spoon the glaze over the lamb evenly. Pour 1½ cups water in the bottom of the pan.

Roast the lamb for 1½ to 13/4 hours or until a meat thermometer inserted in the thickest part of the leg away from the bone registers 135 degrees for medium-rare. (Check periodically to make sure there is some liquid in the bottom of the pan and add more water, if necessary.)

If you prefer it more done, cook until the thermometer registers 140 to 150 degrees for medium-well done. Transfer the lamb to a carving board and let rest for at least 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, place the pan on top of the stove and add the remaining cup of water on medium heat to deglaze the pan, scraping up the browned bits on the bottom of the pan. Season to taste.

Skim the fat from the pan juices, then pour the juices into a small pitcher.

Carve the lamb into thin slices and serve with pan juices. Makes 6 servings.

Diane Rossen Worthington is the author of 18 cookbooks, including “Seriously Simple Holidays.” To contact her, go to www.seriouslysimple.com.

TRIBUNE MEDIA SERVICES

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