National Roast Leg of Lamb Day is observed each year on May 7. The leg of lamb is a mild and tender cut of meat that, when roasted, is a unique and tasty dish to many. A typical preparation involves covering the leg of lamb with butter, rosemary sprigs pushed inside incisions cut in the leg, and rosemary leaves sprinkled on top. The lamb is then roasted for two hours at 360 degrees and usually served with carrots, roasted potatoes, green vegetables and gravy.
Sheep have had a long history as part of the culinary delights of the world, whether you think of the ubiquitous roast mutton that permeates British culture or the deliciously aromatic lamb tagines in Morrocco.
When we say sheep have been with us for a long time, we mean a very, very long time. The origin of the domesticated sheep goes back to 11,000 BC in Mesopotamia, and share the distinction of being one of the first animals domesticated by mankind. These sheep were known as mouflon, and weren’t quite the woolly sheep we know today.
Then they were raised for their meat, milk, and skin for parchment and vellum. In fact, the wool that we so often think of sheep for today wasn’t an important part of their use until 6000 BC in Iran.
What Roast Leg of Lamb Day serves to remind us of, is that when we indulge in this wonderful dish, we’re sharing a meal that our ancestors have shared for thousands of years. Mutton and Sheep’s milk have a staple protein since we first transitioned from hunting and gathering to an agricultural lifestyle.
Now mutton is a much-loved meat, an important staple in cultures all over the world, while their wool is vital to many an economy. So on Roast Leg of Lamb Day honor this noble animal and its contribution to the human culture!
Today, I'd like to share my favorite recipe from one on my favorite chefs: Ina Garten, "The Barefoot Contessa". Easy, reliable and utterly delicious!
Herb-Roasted Leg of Lamb
12 large unpeeled garlic cloves, divided
1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary leaves
Freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1 (6-pound) boneless leg of lamb, trimmed and tied
4 to 5 pounds small unpeeled potatoes (16 to 20 potatoes)
2 tablespoons good olive oil
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. Place the oven rack in the lower third of the oven so the lamb will sit in the middle of the oven.
Peel 6 of the cloves of garlic and place them in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel blade. Add the rosemary, 1 tablespoon salt, 1 teaspoon pepper, and butter. Process until the garlic and rosemary are finely minced. Thoroughly coat the top and sides of the lamb with the rosemary mixture. Allow to sit at room temperature for 30 minutes to 1 hour.
Toss the potatoes and remaining unpeeled garlic in a bowl with the olive oil and sprinkle with salt. Place in the bottom of a large roasting pan. Place the lamb on top of the potatoes and roast for 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 hours, or until the internal temperature of the lamb is 135 degrees (rare) or 145 degrees (medium). Remove from the oven and put the lamb on a platter; cover tightly with aluminum foil. Allow the lamb to rest for about 20 minutes. Slice and serve with the potatoes.