I’m excited to share with you how to cook roast lamb that is tender, delicious and a welcome treat away from prime rib and ham, as this is special enough for any holiday dinner, especially when served with mint pistachio pesto.
Most people, including me, are very tenuous about making leg of lamb. While lamb chops seem easy, most people don’t know how to cook a roast lamb and it seems daunting.
There are many questions, because a leg of lamb is not something we make every day. It’s expensive, so we want to make sure we get it right.
What is a leg of lamb?
It’s the upper part of the back haunch of the animal and is naturally tender.
What do I do with the netting? How do I tie the leg of lamb?
I purchased boneless leg of lamb, which came in a netting. Sometimes that netting is oven safe, but I still choose to remove it, so I could rub it with my herb mixture. I retied with butcher’s twine.
The fell was already removed, as well as the shank. The fell is a word you may not be familiar with. It’s the papery, thin, membrane that covers the leg of lamb. Most of the time it’s removed before you purchase it.
Do I roast or braise the leg of lamb?
The general opinion on lamb is to roast, not braise and ruin it. However, I recently braised lamb shanks in red wine, and then there’s my most popular post, the Hunger games lamb stew with dried plums.
In these cases, braising made sense, but for an elegant sliced leg of lamb, roasting is the way to go.
How to Cook Roast Lamb: How do I Marinate?
I decided to opt out of marinating, which is not necessary, as leg of lamb is tender and juicy, with lots of fat. If you do marinate, don’t over do it as just a few hours is all you need.
How to Cook Roast Lamb: How do I season lamb?
Lamb simply loves rosemary, thyme and garlic. It also loves dijon mustard. You can make rub from herbs and garlic or add in a little dijon mustard and olive oil. Just make sure you use plenty, finely chopped (fresh herbs are best), and cover the whole thing. Before applying this rub, you will want to stab the lamb all over at 1/2 inch inserts, which will allow all the flavors to penetrate.
Do I go low and slow or use a high temperature?
I ended up going with a 400 degree F. oven and roasting at about 20 minutes a pound for a medium rare.
What sauce or gravy do I serve with Leg of Lamb?
I sliced it and served it with my secret weapon that turns everyone into a lamb lover, mint pistachio pesto.
The funny thing about this is I am not a mint fan in general. However, when you take fresh mint, parsley, garlic, lemon zest, and pistachios and smoosh them with olive oil, you have something irresistible.
This is my basil pistachio pesto. I simply left out the cheese (not right for lamb) and replaced basil with mint. You can decide how chunky you want the pesto. I left it fairly chunky, but on a different day I may choose to do it smoother.
I served this to a friend during lunch. She loved it and went back for more. It was tender, and flavorful (not gamey), and she thought the mint pistachio pesto was spot on.
If you do cook roast lamb, serve it with this roasted dijon potatoes or these lemon dijon roasted purple potatoes. Or if you’re low-carbing it, please make this mashed cauliflower, which will marry so well with all those textures and flavors.
What do you do with the leg of lamb leftovers?
If you have left over lamb, you might want to make a shredded lamb shepherd’s pie. I will come back with a recipe for that.
Some years ago I made a lamb feta party bites. You could do that with leftovers but do top it with mint pistachio pesto. That would be outstanding!
If you want to know more about the fell, and how to trim, Martha Stewart will show you that here.
How to Cook Roast Lamb with a Mint Pistachio Pesto
Boneless Leg of Lamb
- 2 tablespoons fresh rosemary you may use more if fresh
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 tablespoons dijon mustard
- lemon zest from half lemon
- 4 cloves garlic
- 1 teaspoon sea salt
- freshly grounded black pepper
Mint Pistachio Pesto
- 1/3 cup roasted salted shelled pistachios
- 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- lemon zest from half lemon
- 1 clove garlic
- 1 cup big handful flat Italian parsley
- 1 cup big handful fresh mint (see notes)
- 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
- 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
- Have ready a roasting pan with a rack.
- If you purchase a leg of lamb wrapped in a net, it is already likely properly trimmed. Sometimes the net is oven safe. I always remove and retie.
- If the leg of lamb still has the fell, a papery membrane, it must be trimmed off.
- Retie lamb with butcher's twine.
- Using a pairing knife, make sharp inserts about 1/2 long, all over the lamb. I will usually do this through the netting, but it doesn't matter.
- Make lamb rub. Chop garlic, rosemary together. Mix with dijon mustard, lemon zest, olive oil.
- Season lamb with salt and pepper all over.
- Put the rub all over the lamb.
- Put lamb onto rack on roasting pan. I
- If you don't have a rack, just place on shallow baking pan, such as a large cast iron pan.
- Roast till internal temperature reaches 130 degrees F. for medium rare in center. The pieces on the outside will be medium.
- It will be approximately 20 minutes per pound.
- Check the lamb at 60 minutes. If its getting too brown, loosely place a piece of foil over lamb.
- Make Mint PIstachio Pesto
- Chop garlic.
- Put all ingredients for pesto into blender or food processor, until you get the texture you want.
- If you want it chunky, a food processor works better. If you want it smoother, use a Vitamix type blender and add a tablespoon of softened butter at the end.
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