Roast Leg of Lamb

Lamb is Elliott’s and my favorite meat and as we both particularly enjoy the flavor of leg of lamb, it is a dish I prepare several times during the year. When it’s just the two of us, I make the shank half and serve the leftovers cold and thinly sliced, with crimson currant jelly that I make during the summer with currants from my one-hundred-year-old currant bush. I always used to reserve this jelly for glazing fruit for tarts, but when I had the pleasure of dining at the home of my British editor, Kyle Cathie, in London, she served her homemade currant jelly with grilled lamb chops and I immediately adopted the custom.

I always try to get the roast into the oven at least fifteen minutes before Elliott comes in the door because I know the pleasure he experiences stepping off the elevator and smelling the roasting lamb, rosemary and garlic, both hoping and knowing that it’s coming from our apartment.

A whole leg of lamb is perfect for Easter dinner. It feeds a crowd and because of its shape, the same roast yields a full range of doneness, from rare to well-done—something to please everyone.

Although it is considered odd to serve two starches at the same meal, I am always torn between the two classics—roasted potatoes and flageolets—so I usually give in and serve them both.

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Two and a half to 4 hours before roasting, remove the roast from the refrigerator.
Preheat the oven to: 400°F.
Roasting time: about 2 hours
Internal temperature (middle): 130°F. to 135°F.
volume ounces/pounds grams/kilograms
1 leg of lamb (ask butcher not to cut it at the shank joint) 7 pounds 3 kilograms, 175 grams
fresh rosemary leaves, divided 2 tablespoons
2 cloves garlic, peeled and cut into 10 thick slivers 0.5 ounce 14 grams
all-purpose flour 1 tablespoon
salt 2 teaspoons 0.5 ounce 13 grams
pepper, freshly ground a few grindings


At least 15 minutes before roasting, preheat the oven to 400°F.

With a small, sharp knife, make ten ¾-inch-deep slits at even intervals in the roast. Reserve 1 teaspoon of the rosemary and insert the remaining rosemary and the garlic slivers into the slits in the lamb. Rub the top of the roast with the flour, sprinkle with the salt and pepper and sprinkle with the reserved rosemary. Roast for 10 minutes. Decrease the heat to 325°F. and continue roasting for about 1 hour and 45 minutes or until an instant- read thermometer, inserted toward the center of the roast, reads 130°F. to 135°F. for medium rare. The temperature will rise 5 degrees while standing. I find 135°F to 140°F. perfect as the final temperature.

Transfer the roast to a carving board and cover loosely with foil. Allow to stand for at least 20 minutes before carving to reabsorb its juices.

While the roast is resting, use the drippings in the roasting pan to prepare the Pan-Roasted Whole Potatoes with Rosemary and Lemon and the Flageolets.

Use a long sharp knife held almost parallel to the bone to carve long, thin bias slices from the shank portion and from each side of the upper portion. Make sure that each serving contains a piece from each section so your guests may enjoy the variance in texture and flavor. Pass the meat juices in a gravy boat.

NOTE: Jane Freiman, in her wonderful book Dinner Party (Harper & Row), has instructions for home-aging supermarket meat. I find that prime lamb is more tender but slightly less flavorful than home-aged supermarket choice grade. If you buy prime meat, part of what you are paying for is its aging by the butcher. If you buy supermarket choice-grade meat, it benefits greatly from the following 3- to 5-day aging process: Place a roasting pan a little larger than the roast on a refrigerator shelf. Line it with a few paper towels to absorb the drippings. Unwrap the roast and place it, fat side up, on a shelf directly above the pan. Allow it to sit for 3 to 5 days. Trim off any dried areas. From a 7-pound roast you will lose about 1 pound in trimmings and liquid (about 15 percent of the weight) but you will gain greatly in flavor.