Arnaki me Patates

Roast Leg of Lamb with Potatoes

THIS IS the food Greeks associate with religious and family feasts—Easter, weddings and other joyous occasions—although now special occasions are not required to enjoy the dish. Fragrant with garlic and herbs, the lamb is basted with fresh lemon juice and white wine, both of which complement the flavor of the meat. The potatoes, cooked in the same pan, absorb all the flavors and become tender, with crispy tops.

American and New Zealand lamb is larger and leaner than Greek baby lamb, with darker meat that has a gamier flavor. In contrast, Greek spring lamb, which weighs only about 20 pounds, has very little meat and dries out easily. For larger legs, marinating the meat and inserting a mixture of garlic and herbs into the flesh is essential, as these cuts won’t otherwise absorb the flavors.

I like to bring the lamb to the table in the roasting pan, so I use a nice clay baking dish, which also holds the potatoes in one layer. Baked lamb is traditionally accompanied by a green salad, like the fragrant, finely shredded Mixed Green Salad from Lesbos.

With slices of leftover cold roast lamb, Jim Botsacos, the chef of Molyvos restaurant, creates a wonderful wrap sandwich, intermingling the slices with arugula, lettuce and baby spinach and serving it with a dollop of refreshing Yogurt, Garlic, Cucumber and Fennel Dip.

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Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons coarsely chopped garlic (about 6 cloves)
  • 2 tablespoons dried savory or
  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano plus
  • 1 tablespoon dried thyme, crumbled
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon Aleppo pepper or a pinch of crushed red pepper flakes or plenty of freshly ground black pepper
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 1 5-to-6-pound bone-in leg of lamb
  • ¼ cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • cup white wine, plus more if needed
  • 2–2½ pounds small new potatoes, scrubbed, or medium potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes

Method

In a small bowl, mix the garlic with the herbs, salt, pepper or pepper flakes and 2 tablespoons of the oil. Make 8 or 9 deep slits all over the lamb and insert the garlic mixture, reserving about 1½ teaspoons.

Stir the remaining 2 tablespoons oil into the reserved garlic mixture and rub it over the surface of the meat. Cover and let stand for 1 hour at room temperature or, preferably, refrigerate for at least 5 hours, or overnight. Bring to room temperature before roasting.

Preheat the oven to 450°F.

Place the leg of lamb fat side down in a roasting pan large enough to hold the potatoes in a single layer and roast for 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, mix the lemon juice and cup wine in a small bowl. Turn the meat and pour the lemon-juice mixture over it. (If you are roasting the lamb in a clay dish, warm the mixture first, because cold liquid can cause the clay to break.) Reduce the oven temperature to 375°F and roast for 35 minutes, basting every 10 to 15 minutes with the pan juices. If the pan dries out, add a little more wine.

Transfer the lamb to a plate and add the potatoes to the pan, tossing them well to coat them with the pan juices. Place the lamb on the potatoes and continue roasting, basting often, for another 30 minutes, or until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the meat reaches 135°F. Transfer the meat to a heated platter, cover with a double layer of aluminum foil and set aside. (Leave the oven on.)

If the pan juices are watery, transfer most of them to a saucepan and cook briefly to reduce. Meanwhile, return the pan to the oven and continue baking the potatoes until tender, with crusty tops.

Turn the oven to broil. Place the lamb on the potatoes again and broil for 2 to 3 minutes, or until the surface is deep brown and crackling. Carve the lamb and serve, passing the pan juices in a bowl or sauceboat at the table.

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