I’ve had some problems with lamb. It is mostly because I like my meat at least medium well done—bloody, squishy meat is just not for me—and lamb cooked to that degree is frequently rubbery, flavorless and gray. Jeremy is a huge fan of lamb though. It’s possibly his very favorite meat, so I have been valiantly trying to strike a balance between bloody and rubbery in my lamb roasts. Never had much luck until I found a recipe for a boneless rolled leg of lamb.
For instance, I recently made a bone-in leg of lamb with garlic and anchovy, and while it was tasty, the recipe below totally blew it away. We cooked this roast for about 7 minutes after it registered 140F, and let it rest while I made the jus, and it was perfectly done, to my taste: a bit pink, and very tender, but not red or bloody. Not only was it the first time I’ve done lamb justice in the kitchen, it was probably the best-tasting and textured lamb I’ve ever eaten. We served it simply with the jus and a side of quinoa.
Boneless Leg of Lamb Stuffed with Swiss Chard and Feta
1 lb Swiss chard, stems reserved for another use and leaves chopped coarse
6 large garlic cloves, sliced thin lengthwise
3 T olive oil
1/4 lb feta, crumbled (about 3/4 C)
an 8-lb leg of lamb, boned, butterflied, and trimmed well (4-5 lb boneless)
1 1/2 tsp crumbled dried rosemary, or to taste
1 onion, sliced
1 C dry red wine
1 1/2 C beef broth
1/2 C water
1 T cornstarch, dissolved in 2 T cold water
Wash the chard well, drain it, and dump it in a heavy saucepan without drying; steam it over moderate heat, covered, in the water clinging to the leaves, for 3-5 minutes, or until it is wilted. Drain the chard in a colander, refresh under cold water, and really squeeze it dry in a sturdy paper towel. In a skillet, saute the garlic in 2 T oil over moderate heat until pale golden, and transfer it with a slotted spoon to a bowl. To the skillet add the chard, and cook it, stirring, for 1 minute, or until any excess liquid is evaporated, and transfer it to the bowl. Let the chard mixture cool and stir in the crumbled feta.
Pat the lamb dry, arrange it boned side up on a work surface, and season it with salt and pepper. Spread the lamb evenly with the chard mixture, leaving a 1-inch border around the edges. Beginning with a short side, roll it up jelly-roll fashion and tie it tightly with kitchen string. (The rolled and tied roast may look ungainly, but it will improve in appearance when cooked.)
Transfer the lamb to a roasting pan and rub it all over with the remaining 1 T oil, 1 tsp rosemary, and salt and pepper to taste. Roast the lamb in the middle of a preheated 325°F oven for 30 minutes, scatter the onion around it in the pan, and roast the lamb for 1 to 1 1/4 hours more (a total of 20 minutes cooking time for each pound of boneless meat), or until a meat thermometer registers 140°F. for medium-rare meat. Transfer the roast to a cutting board and let stand for 20 minutes while you prepare the sauce.
While the lamb is standing, skim the fat from the pan drippings, and set the roasting pan over moderately high heat. Add the wine, deglaze the pan, scraping up the brown bits, and boil the mixture until it is reduced by half. Strain the mixture through a fine sieve into a saucepan, add the broth, the remaining 1/2 tsp rosemary, the water, and any juices that have accumulated on the cutting board, and boil the mixture until it is reduced to about 2 C. Stir the cornstarch mixture, add it to the wine mixture, whisking, and simmer the sauce for 2 minutes. Season the sauce with salt and pepper, and serve drizzled over slices of lamb.
Update 11/15/16: I did a quick shepherd’s pie with some leftovers, and it turned out unbelievably tasty. Definitely something to do again with leftover lamb or beef. I chopped up all the leftover lamb into small pieces, removing the fat as I went, and put it in the bottom of our small casserole; it was enough lamb to cover in a nice layer, not too deep. I then thawed out the remains of the lamb gravy we made with the feta-rolled lamb, which I knew I was saving for a reason, and poured that over the lamb. Next I thawed some peas and corn by running them under hot water in a colander, drained them well, and spread them over the meat. After that went a layer of the last of our buttermilk mashed potatoes, which turned out to be just the right amount, maybe 2 cups. It was cold and consequently rather chunky, but I was able to smooth it out sufficiently. I topped the whole thing off with a very thin layer of breadcrumbs from the freezer, and dotted with a tablespoon of butter. Then it went in the oven for about 30-40 minutes, until the breadcrumbs browned and the gravy was starting to bubble up around the edges of the casserole. We both really liked it, which is good, because we only ate about half, and now have leftovers of leftovers. Plus it was pretty quick to make, and we ate before 7pm, always a bonus.
Update 1/3/07: We made this lamb for Christmas dinner at my parent’s house. My mom was a little worried about not liking the flavor of lamb, but it came out beautifully, and she seemed to like it as well as the rest of us did. The lamb was very fresh and lovely, boned for us in-house at Tony’s, and made quite a spate of leftovers. We served this lamb with jus, mashed potatoes, steamed fresh broccoli, and harvest squash bread from the Macrina cookbook. Oh, and Christmas cookies, of course! We did shepherd’s pie a few days later with the remaining mashed potatoes and gravy, a can of corn, and what seemed like a very small amount of the remaining lamb. I’m told that after we left (without getting to eat any lamb sandwiches, Jeremy would be sad to report), my mom used up the rest in a wonderful lamb stew.