March 1, 2013 by annmquintero
Amazons, I’m so glad I’m writing this blog. I do love to cook, and I especially love to share food with friends, but sometimes I can get stuck in a rut. I couldn’t tell you how many times my friends have had my roast chicken over root veggies. It’s delicious, and I could make it with my eyes closed, but sometimes it’s good to branch out and try new things. And you, my Amazons, inspire me every week to do so!
Although I’d never prepared it myself, roast lamb has always been one of my favorite meats, and when I saw it was on special at the grocery, I decided to take the leap. Lamb is also a very traditional Easter meal. As a symbol of fertility and new life, along with eggs and rabbits and artichokes, it’s one of the most popular foods to ring in the spring season. But I’ll admit to having a slight fear of roasts. Getting them to just the right doneness always seems like a bit of witchcraft to me (we’ll come back to this shortly).
And there’s always the tying. I’d never tied my own meat before. Tying a roast, especially if it’s a leg roast that’s been deboned, is very important for maintaining a compact and uniform piece of meat to ensure even cooking. A lot of roasts will come pre-tied, but if you want to get your seasonings inside the roast, it becomes important to take the leap and learn to tie a roast yourself. My first attempt was a little messy, but not that hard! And I’m sure it’ll improve over time. I recommend this video tutorial to get yourself started: How to tie a roast.
But back to getting the right level of doneness; I recently invested in a brilliant gadget that has completely thwarted my fear of roasts! It’s a probe thermometer attached to a little doohickey that will ding-dong when your meat’s done to your liking! All the guesswork taken out the equation. Amazing! This is the model I got, and I’m super happy with it so far: Digital programmable probe thermometer.
I also made a jus with my roast. This isn’t necessary (hell, I might not even recommend it!), and it will require a LOT of improvisation on your part. I can tell you what I did, but honestly, you’ll have to keep tasting and guessing what it might need in order for you to like it. I also used wine in mine, and if you’re avoiding the booze, you’ll need to pick an alternate liquid, like stock or broth. Developing a jus is a great opportunity to really taste and consider flavor analytically. And you know what? If it sucks, you can just chuck it; and your roast and whatever side dish you choose will still be delicious.
Sauce pan (opt.)
Wooden spoon (opt.)
Boneless leg of lamb
Rosemary, 2-3 sprigs, chopped
Lemon, ½, juiced
Garlic, 5 cloves, minced
Dijon mustard, 1 tablespoon
Salt and pepper
Carrots, onions, celery
Red wine and a whole bunch of other stuff (opt.)
Preheat your oven to 375F
Mix together your rosemary, lemon, garlic, mustard, salt, pepper, and olive oil. Remove the stupid, plastic, poppy-uppy, “roast’s done” thingy-dingy (they’re always liars). Rub the seasonings all over your lamb and, if you’ve decided to tie it yourself, tie it up. Plop it in the rack over your roughly chopped or broken carrots, celery, and onions (also known as mirepoix). Add a little bit of water to the pan to keep the veggies from burning too badly, and pop it all in the oven.
With your average leg roast, the cook time will be around 70-85 minutes (approx. 20 min./lb.), but I highly recommend using a meat thermometer to keep tabs on the internal temp of your roast. Once you’ve reached your optimal temperature (145F for medium rare, recommended), remove the roast from the oven and set aside to rest for 10 minutes.
Now we’ve reached the jus jump-off. Look at the bottom of your pan. There should be plenty of browny, burny bits there, and ideally some juiciness. Set your roasting pan on a lit burner and add your wine or stock. Use the combination of the heat and the liquid and agitation from the wooden spoon to dislodge anything stuck to the bottom of the pan. Once everything’s up, transfer to a saucepan through the sieve, to strain out the spent veg from the pan.
Allow the liquid to reduce to about half its original volume and start tasting. Does it need salt? Does it need brightening? Does it need mellowing? I ended up adding salt, a little balsamic (too much, actually, but let’s not discuss it), and several knobs of butter whisked in while the pan was off the heat. You could also add herbs, cream OR citrus (never both, we don’t want curdling), maybe some horseradish or worcestershire sauce… the sky’s the limit! True sauce making is an art, and I won’t pretend to be an expert, but it’s still possible to make a tasty liquid to drizzle over food.
Snip the ties off your roast, slice and serve. I plated mine with cauliflower purée and a drizzle of jus. It would also go well with most any other veg. I might recommend simple sauteed greens or my favorite pan-roasted asparagus (another classic fertility food item for spring)!
Don’t forget to let me know how things went for you with this dish in the comments, and ask any questions you may have. Also, if you have any special requests for what we should make next, let me know!
Spring is just around the corner, Amazons. Be ready for new beginnings with great food and a sense of adventure.
(If this is your first time reading EATS, I encourage you to check out the Introductions post for my philosophy and list of must-have kitchen items.)