Friday, January 7, 2011

Roasted Leg Of Lamb

In Mid-December, we bought a leg of lamb and froze it as we weren't going to cook it until Christmas Eve. Normally we would buy something like this and cook it within a day or so. The issue was we weren't going to wait until we arrived in Mrs. Urban Eaters hometown to find we couldn't buy it anywhere. We were right! No lamb to be found. Good thing we planned ahead.

The only lamb I have ever cooked was either lamb chops or rack of lamb. Both were good flavor-wise, but you have to admit, there isn't a lot of meat on either. I grew up in cattle country and I guess I'm just used to bigger cuts of meat. So, this time we figured the leg was a good choice as it has far more meat than the chops or the rack, but I couldn't find a leg with the bone still in it. I'm a big fan of cooking meat with the bone still in. The flavor seems to be far better. But, it is easier to carve it without the bone and you won't need as big of a pan to cook it in either.

We bought an Australian lamb, but we have very good lamb here in Alberta. We just have to find the right place to buy it. The sheep farmers I have talked with let their flocks roam around their pastures, which means mainly grass fed. Most farmers will feed them grain as well, mainly at the end of their time on the farm. It's the same reason a lot Americans come up here to hunt, the wild animals are grain and hay fed (they eat for free in the fields, dirty buggers). This makes for nice, tasty meat without the wild taste and smell. Lamb is a healthier kind of meat (http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=foodspice&dbid=117), but it's still red meat and should be eaten in moderation.

On Christmas Eve, out came the meat. I wanted to keep it simple as the in-laws like lamb, but haven't ate it a whole bunch. Now, I've ate it a lot in restaurants, but not in my own house so I was trying to be careful here. I could either cook it Aussie or Kiwi style, or I could go north of the equator and cook it English  or Greek style. I am a big fan of Mediterranean food and try to eat it as much as I can, so Greek it is (was)!

I figured Lemons are a big part of the Greek diet and lifestyle as well as being very good for a persons health http://www.suite101.com/content/health-benefits-of-lemons-a218006), so it was a no-brainer to use in this recipe for starters. I put a little more thought into it and oregano is also a big part of Greek cooking, and is a good thing to be adding to the food you eat (http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=foodspice&dbid=73). I always try to use fresh whenever I can, but sometimes dried is a better way to go, and a lot of chefs would agree. Seeing as it's winter up here right now, it's not always easy to find fresh oregano right now. Every other herb sure, but not oregano. Must be a marketing thing. Anyways, I wanted to keep it simple, so that was it. A little coarse sea salt and fresh ground pepper and I was away to the races.

Roasted Leg Of Lamb

- 1 leg of lamb, about 4-5 lbs (1.8-2.25 kgs)
- juice of 1-2 lemons
- 2 cloves of garlic, sliced thinly
- 2 tbsp dried oregano
- coarse sea salt
- fresh ground pepper
- EVOO

1. Take the meat out of the netting. I don't suggest doing this on your own. It can be very hard to get it back in the netting properly by yourself, so try to have somebody help you with this. BUT, I felt rebellious that day and left the netting off completely. Lay the meat out on a cutting board and cut small slits all over the inside of the leg. Insert one piece of garlic in every slit.
2. Sprinkle oregano and pepper all over the side of the leg and rub it in.


3. Roll the leg back up and put it back in the netting, tie it back up nice and tight. When you're done putting it back in, rub oregano and pepper all over the outside of the leg. Put in a bag, like a 1 gallon Ziplock so it's big enough, and pour lemon juice along with a little EVOO over the meat. Close the bag and let it rest in the fridge for at least 2 or 3 hours, even overnight if you can. Make sure to take it out of the fridge at least one hour before cooking. If you notice on the ingredient list, I said you need the juice of 1-2 lemons. If you like it really lemony, use 2 lemons. If not, use 1. Simple.


4. Preheat the oven to 300F (150C). The lamb shouldn't be very wet, but if it is, pat it dry with paper towel before it goes in the oven. Place the lamb on a baking sheet or in a roasting pan on a rack. I strongly suggest using an oven-proof meat thermometer and plug it into the meat before going in the oven also. Lamb is naturally tender, so you don't want to overcook it. This way you can monitor the internal temperature of the meat without opening the oven door. When you open the door, the heat escapes and it may take ten minutes to get back to the temperature you want.
5. Put the lamb in the oven when it reaches the desired temperature. After one hour, turn the heat up to 400F (205C). This will help brown the outside and let you cook it low and slow to start with. You will know the meat is done when it reaches the temperature of (according to the Canadian Food Inspection Agency):

- 145F (63C) for medium-rare
- 160f (71C) for medium
- 170f (77c) for well done, but who cares about that. Lamb should be eaten no more than medium as it will get to tough if it's overcooked.
- They didn't have anything on rare, but according to the US Department of Agriculture, it's rare at 135C (57C).


6. When the meat has reached your desired temperature, take it out of the oven. I generally take it out about 5 degrees F before my desired temperature because the meat has to rest and the temperature will rise that extra 5 degrees just sitting there. This will give the juices a chance to redistribute throughout the entire piece of meat. If you cut the meat right away, the juices will just flow out all over your cutting surface. Not good. Let it rest for about 10 minutes before carving it up.

Sorry, no finished photos as my camera ran out of juice. Too many kiddie pictures!

We served this with roasted vegetables, including butternut squash.

Ingredients:

- 2 cups diced butternut squash
- 2 carrots, sliced on an angle about 1/8" thick
- 1/2 Spanish onion
- 1 zucchini, cut in half and sliced
- 1 red pepper, cut in half and sliced
- 3 tomatoes cut in half and into wedges
- 3 cloves garlic, whole
- 1/2 tsp fresh rosemary, chopped
- 1 tsp fresh thyme, chopped
- EVOO
- Sea salt
- Fresh ground pepper

Directions:

1. Preheat the oven to 400F (205C). Place the squash on a baking sheet and pour a little EVOO over top and sprinkle salt and pepper over as well. Mix it all up with a spatula and put it in the oven for 5 minutes when the oven reaches the desired temperature. Put the rest of the vegetables, except for the tomatoes, a little EVOO and herbs in a large bowl and mix together.
2. After 5 minutes, take the cookie sheet out of the oven and add the vegetables in the bowl. Stir it around gently as you don't want to have any escapees all over your counter or stove. Put back in the oven.
3. After 10 minutes, give the vegetables a gentle stir and pop them back in the oven for another 8-10 minutes. You will know when they are done when the vegetables start to turn brown. Don't let them burn!
4. Put the tomatoes in a bowl and pour the roasted veggies over top. Mix it all together and serve.
Yield: Serves 6 (including the lamb)


Tips: My mother in-law doesn't like meat unless it's had the absolute life cooked out of it. If it doesn't bounce back up to you when you slam it on the floor, it ain't no good for nothin'. The ends were good for her as they were cooked a little more than the rest of the meat. Worked out well for everyone, nice red, juicy meat for us, brown-ish kind of well done meat for her. Adding lemon to your marinade helps tenderize the meat very nicely. This will also work for other types of meat, if you want to add that flavor. The roasted vegetables can be made with almost anything you want to use. I make it differently almost every time. Different vegetables, different herbs and spices, do what you think you will work.

I started with the heat on low and cranked it up later. I thought about just keeping it low all the way through, but wasn't too sure about the end result being what I wanted. This idea came from a few Greek recipes I have seen over the years, so I thought I would give it a try. Next time I think I will start high, like I do with birds. That always seems to work out nicely. I'm going to try leg of lamb a few more times in the next little while and mix it up a little. I have a few more ideas with what I want to do with lamb.

Little O's Menu

Yesterday, I went to Cob's Bakery again and bought a few loaves of bread. One of the loaves had chia seeds in it. I've heard they were good to incorporate into your diet and had other uses besides putting them on little naked clay animals so they could grow a coat to cover up with. Chia seeds have a lot of protein and dietary fibre and are a good source of antioxidants (http://www.ihealthdirectory.com/chia-seeds/). So, with this in mind, I was confident O would be alright with this, and she was. So far, she's enjoyed it with all of the regular things she likes on bread. Along with the fruit she is eating, her diet has been very well balanced thus far. She ate some of the lamb over Christmas as well. We were wondering how that would go, but all is well in that department too.

In my last blog, I mentioned I was baking off some scallops. This is an east thing to do and I'm sure a lot of people out there do this all of the time. Scallops are so good and you should eat them once a month or a little more, as long as you aren't allergic to them. They are very healthy for you, but they are a little fatty (http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=foodspice&dbid=105). They also soak up all kinds of flavors from around them, which is what makes them fun to cook with. They taste great on their own, but are easy to play around with. This time I wrapped them up in alder smoked bacon and used a toothpick soaked in water to secure them.


I had eight of scallops and on 7 I drizzled a tiny bit of maple syrup. On the eighth one, I sprinkled a little bit of smoked paprika on it.


All of them turned out fantastic as usual. A little trick to add a little more flavor is to secure them with a rosemary sprig instead of a toothpick. This is a great little trick, but make sure to pull them out so the leaves don't go back against the grain, meaning if they are pointing up, pull the opposite way. Either way you do it, they are a very good start to a nice meal.


Quote Of The Day:

"At this point, I wouldn't be able to digest meat, and I don't like eating things with faces."
- Joely Fisher - Actress


Until next time, good eating everyone.

Mark

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