I don't do many traditional things over Easter, but since I like roast lamb about once a year, its seems befitting that Easter Sunday should be the day. This is a deliciously savory roast that I amended from a Julia Child recipe. She used more garlic than my recipe calls for, actually making 2-inch-deep incisions all over the roast and stuffing each of them with a mint leaf and a garlic clove. I frankly tried that one or two Easters ago and thought it was a lot of work for no real return; in fact it became a little too garlicky for my taste. Instead of that method, I have taken a page out of the Prime Rib playbook by searing the roast in a high temperature oven to start the cooking process, which creates a wonderful crust and locks in moisture and natural juices. Julia's method leaves open wounds in the meat to drain the roast of all that flavorful goodness. I think it was a huge blunder on her part. Sorry, Julia.
I also use a product for my gravy that I add at the last minute, made with mint leaves and malt vinegar from Crosse & Blackwell, with the catchy name of Mint Sauce. You can learn about it by clicking here. Absent this product, just substitute a handful of finely chopped fresh mint leaves and a 1/4 cup of malt vinegar to the gravy at the last minute before serving.
Finally, about the lamb: according to many authorities, the best lamb to get it that which is raised in Australia or New Zealand. American lamb is generally regarded as inferior. In this case, my butcher had a small semi-boneless lamb shank from Australia and it was delicious. Although you can use a boneless roast that has been netted, I prefer a semi-boneless roast for this dish. A semi-boneless roast has had its aitchbone removed, but the knuckle bone remains. A bone-in roast will assure a more flavorful, juicier roast. I would use a boneless roast only if I were going to stuff it, and that, of course, is another recipe.
4 tbsp balsamic vinegar
3 tbsp minced garlic
3 tbsp crushed dried rosemary
3 tbsp Dijon mustard
2 tbsp lemon juice
1 tbsp lemon pepper
2 tbsp dried parsley leaves
2 tbsp dried thyme
1 tbsp powered mustard (like, Coleman's)
1 tbsp Hungarian paprika
1/2 tsp salt
4 tbsp olive oil
3 cups red wine
2 cups beef stock
3 medium diced tomatoes
1 bottle of Crosse & Blackwell Mint Sauce (or substitute 2 oz fresh finely chopped mint leaves and 1/4 cup malt vinegar)
1 medium yellow onion
2 tbsp lemon pepper
1 tbsp cracked black pepper
3 tbsp olive oil
salt to taste
Mix the vinegar, garlic, rosemary, both mustards, lemon juice, lemon pepper, parsley, thyme, paprika and salt in a mixing bowl and stir well to combine. Then, add the olive oil and whisk well to form an emulsified herb paste.
Score the fat side of the roast in a diamond pattern, being careful to cut only into the fat and not into the meat.
Rub the herb paste into the roast thoroughly on all sides, but use more on the top, fat side of the roast.
Place the roast on a roasting rack, fat side up, and then place the rack into a roasting pan. Pour two cups of red wine and one cup of water into the pan. During the cooking process, most of the liquid will evaporate, and it will prevent any drippings from burning. The steam created by the wine and water also helps keep the roast juicy. What remains in the pan will help make a fabulous gravy.
Place a thermometer probe (see the side bar of this Blog for the kind I recommend) into the thickest part of the meat, but be careful not to leave the probe touching the bone. In my case, I put the probe lengthwise into the roast, rather than from the top down.
Pop the roast in the pre-heated 450 degree oven for twenty minutes, then back down the heat to 325 degrees. Generally, you will roast the leg of lamb about thirty minutes per pound, but ultimately, the thermometer is your guide as to when the roast is ready. At 150 degrees, the meat will be a perfect medium rare.
About an hour before the roast comes out of the oven, put the diced tomatoes into the bottom of the roasting pan. This will add a flavorful dimension to the gravy, which will be made at the last minute.
Allow the roast to sit covered for twenty minutes before carving.
While the roast is resting, skim off any fat from the roasting pan and then place all of the drippings, along with diced tomatoes, into the saucepan. Add the bottle of Mint Sauce, or the mint leaves and malt vinegar. Blend well.
If you think the gravy needs a little thickening (I didn't in this case), you can make a slurry of flour and water, and then whisk this into the gravy while it's simmering. Bring it to a boil and simmer for one minute before serving.
If you are refraining from flour, the gravy can also be thickened with the yolk of an egg. But temper the yolk first by placing 2-3 teaspoons of the hot gravy in with the egg yolk in a small mixing bowl while whisking the mixture briskly. This will keep the yolk from turning into scrambled eggs when you add it to the saucepan. After the egg yolk has been tempered, whisk it into the gravy. Continue whisking while the gravy returns to the simmer before serving.
Slice the turnips and onions into strips that are roughly the same size. The main thing, however, is to ensure even thickness of the turnip slices, about a quarter-inch.
In a mixing bowl, toss the root vegetables in olive oil, lemon pepper and the black pepper.
Lay out the turnips and onion in a single layer on a cookie sheet or sheet pan.
Cook for 15 minutes, then flip all the veggies over, and cook another 15-25 minutes until the veggies are taking on a golden brown color. Salt them only after they come out of the oven.
Serve along side the sliced lamb with the gravy spooned over.