Roast Boned Leg of Lamb Abruzzi-Style with Potatoes

Cosciotto D’agnello Arrostito All’abruzzese

The foothills of Abruzzi, a ruggedly handsome and mountainous region that marks the southern limit of what mapmakers designate as central Italy, are home to shepherds and their flocks. Lambs are raised for meat and their mothers are milked to produce pecorino cheese. The recipe for roast leg of lamb given here combines both products of this sheep-tending culture.

Roasting a whole leg does not happen every day or even every month, but it can replace the customary stewed or fricasseed shoulder and loins on a holiday, or when celebrating a happy private event; a communion, a wedding, the birth of a child. I have seen it done in a wood-fired pizza oven, a departure from the usual over-the-stove method; but aside from that, the flavor foundation is that of nearly every Italian roast, garlic and rosemary. A delicious accessory to the dish is the potatoes, which are diced small and cooked along with the meat, each little nugget becoming engorged with the rich flavor of this roast.

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Ingredients

  • 5 medium garlic cloves, peeled and cut into thin wedges
  • A 4½ to 5-pound leg of lamb, boned and butterflied
  • Salt
  • Black pepper ground fresh
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • ½ cup grated Romano cheese
  • 2 pounds potatoes, washed, peeled, and cut into 1-inch dice
  • 5 to 6 sprigs fresh rosemary or 2 teaspoons chopped dried leaves

Method

  1. Turn on the oven to 500°.
  2. Force all the garlic wedges into the meat, distributing them broadly and poking them in as deeply as you can with a fingertip.
  3. Sprinkle the lamb with salt and generous grindings of pepper.
  4. Choose a baking pan that can contain the leg lying flat and all the potatoes. Put in the meat and use a brush to coat it evenly on all sides with the olive oil. Rub the grated cheese over the lamb, coating all sides and patting it down firmly with the palm of your hand. Surround the leg with the diced potatoes, spreading the rosemary sprigs or sprinkling the chopped dried leaves over both meat and potatoes.
  5. Place the pan in the upper-middle level of the preheated oven. After 20 minutes, sprinkle salt and pepper over the potatoes and turn these and the meat over. Then return the pan to the oven for another 20 minutes. Transfer the entire contents of the pan to a very warm platter and serve at once. The plates at table should be warm too.

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