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Lynne Ireland

Stories are the main ingredients of any holiday. Whether you and yours gather to tell the story of the Passover or the empty tomb or the miraculous return of spring, the words spoken are often accompanied by traditional foods.

Those dishes may be accompanied by storytelling, too -- like the chiffon cake that one year broke into craggy chunks coming out of the pan. A new tradition was born when the clumps got layered with whipped cream and strawberries and turned into a tasty trifle.

The tale of how the Easter ham on the table evolved into an herby, garlicky roast leg of lamb may not be a saga for the ages, but the family still chuckles about the year the truth was revealed. Nobody liked the ham, but all felt duty-bound to uphold past practice.

The story we all told ourselves was that somebody else would be disappointed without the ham. So telling the stories of our holidays also gives us the opportunity to explore our past. And by talking with each other and raising questions about those tales we tell, we also have a chance to tell new truths. And maybe even add a new chapter to our family's story.

Barbara Kafka's simple roast leg of lamb offers an easy, quick preparation for a spring feast that will leave you with plenty of story time. A quick rub with herbs, about an hour in a very hot oven, and you're ready to gather ‘round. And the best accompaniment of all? Table talk.

Simple Roast Leg of Lamb

Note: Whole leg serves 8 to 10, short leg serves 6 to 8

1 trimmed whole leg of lamb (6 to 8 pounds) or 1 trimmed whole leg of lamb, boned, rolled and tied (4 to 5 pounds); or 1 trimmed short leg of lamb (5½ pounds); or 1 trimmed short leg of lamb boned, rolled, and tied (3¾-4 pounds)

1 recipe herb rub (see below)

2 heads garlic, separated into cloves (optional)

1 cup red wine or water, for deglazing

Place oven rack on second level from the bottom. Heat oven to 500 degrees. Make herb rub, reserving 2 garlic cloves and cut them into slivers. Place the lamb in an 18-by-13-by-2-inch roasting pan. With sharp knife, make small ½ inch slits toward center of leg; insert garlic slivers into slits. Massage rub into roast on all sides. Turn leg so rounder side faces up. Scatter garlic cloves around if using.

For the whole leg of lamb with bone, roast for one hour. For boneless whole leg, roast for one hour and 10 minutes. For short leg with bone, roast at 500 degrees for 10 minutes. Reduce heat to 425. Roast for another 35 minutes. For boneless, rolled, tied short leg, roast at 500 degrees for 10 minutes, then at 425 for 40 minutes.

Remove lamb to a platter. Snip off strings if tied. Pour or spoon off excess fat. Put pan on top of stove and add liquid and bring contents to a boil while scraping the bottom vigorously with a wooden spoon. Let reduce by half. Serve as sauce for lamb. Serve with fresh minted peas and new potatoes.

Herb Rub

12 cloves garlic, smashed and peeled

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1 tablespoon dried oregano, preferably Greek

¼ teaspoon dried rosemary

1 tablespoon dried thyme

2 tablespoons Kosher salt

2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper

¼ cup olive oil

Cut garlic in medium pieces. Place in blender with remaining ingredients. Blend until a smooth puree. Scrape down sides of blender with a rubber spatula and scrape into small bowl. Reserve and use as directed in recipes.

Source: Barbara Kafka, "Roasting, A Simple Art"

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Lynne Ireland lives to eat and welcomes comments and questions from others who do (or don’t). Contact her at citydesk@journalstar.com.

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