My friend Sasi, who is originally from Sri Lanka, has a wonderful backyard garden full of hot peppers. Remember that great version of Z’hug I made last month using his Thai Bird’s Eye chilies? Well, they are back on the menu, but this time they are one of the ingredients in a spicy-but-cool-and-creamy sauce to accompany a leg of lamb I bought from The Shepherd’s Wife (AKA Tracy Riddle).
Lamb seems so appropriate in the fall—a tender and flavorful meat that pairs well with winter squash and fruity red wines. You might even give this dish a try with my Lemongrass Lentil Curry. If you grow herbs at your house, they should still be fine; in fact, cool weather usually gives rosemary, sage, parsley and thyme a bit of new life. So be sure to use them here for that fresh herbal taste. Dried just can match it in this dish. And don’t forget that any nearly-done-for herbs such as basil can be harvested, washed and processed with a touch of olive oil for freezing and use later on. No waste!
What I love most about this lamb dish is that many of the ingredients for the crust are repeated in the sauce. Your shopping list and prep time are simpler, and everything in the finished dish marries extremely well. Okay…the sun sets much quicker these days, so let’s get dinner on the table…
- One teaspoon each, minced fresh rosemary, minced fresh thyme leaves and freshly grated ginger
- One teaspoon each crushed coriander seed, crushed tri-color pepper blend (We love Penzy’s blend of green, white and red peppercorns.), coarse sea salt
- One-half teaspoon each ground allspice and ground mustard seed
- One large clove fresh garlic, crushed and minced
- One tablespoon orange zest
- Four tablespoons ground pistachios
- Two tablespoons olive oil
- One cup good-quality plain Greek Yogurt
- One-half cup raw tahini (We have a few favorites, but for this we used Artisana Organics and were very pleased. It comes in a glass jar, not a plastic tub—big plus!)
- Two to three minced Thai Bird’s Eye chilies (How many peppers really depends on how much heat you want in the sauce. Three Bird’s Eye will provide a nice bite. If you can’t find Bird’s Eye chilies, try a couple small red or green jalapeños or serranoes.)
- One teaspoon each fresh minced mint leaves, parsley and rosemary
- One tablespoon grated orange peel
- One-quarter cup freshly squeezed orange juice
- Four tablespoons ground pistachios
- Two tablespoons freshly grated ginger
- One large clove garlic, crushed and minced
- One leg of lamb between five to eight pounds (A bone-in leg will offer more flavor, but a boneless leg takes less time to cook and is easier to carve. Up to you, but the bone and the size will influence how long you need to roast the lamb.)
- Thaw the leg of lamb in the refrigerator until completely thawed. Then remove it to a large platter in order to coat it with the crust mixture.
- Combine all the crust mixture ingredients in a medium bowl. Make sure all the ingredients are thoroughly combined. Coat as much of the leg surface as you can, pressing the crust mixture onto all sides of the meat. Now allow it to sit at room temperature for about an hour or so before roasting. Giving the meat time to calm down and get to know its adornment will up that flavor.
- When you are ready to roast the leg of lamb, have the oven preheated to 450 degrees. Place the prepared leg of lamb on the rack of your roaster that has been coated with oil to prevent sticking. Place it in the oven and immediately reduce the oven temperature to 325 degrees. Starting the oven at a high temperature will give that crust a chance to crisp up; then, the reduction of temperature ensures a slow gentle roasting.
- Depending on the size of the leg of lamb, you will need to allow 10 to 13 minutes per pound for a bone-in leg of lamb that weighs eight pounds or more. For a smaller leg of lamb and/or one without a bone, allow eight to nine minutes per pound. You are looking for an internal temperature of 140 degrees for medium rare and 160 degrees for medium. You do not want well-done lamb, trust me. I settled on 150 degrees and let the lamb rest, wrapped with foil, for 20 minutes, which increases that internal temperature by at least another five degrees.
- While the lamb rests, prepare the sauce by combining all the ingredients with a large whisk. Serve in a pretty bowl beside the lamb that you serve on a pretty platter. Matching is not required…just pretty.
Note that I did not include a cook time because this totally is dependent on the size of the lamb leg and the bone factor. For my 5-pound leg without a bone, roasting time was about 50 minutes with a 20-minute rest. To be safe, always use a meat thermometer. You really want to avoid over-cooked leg of lamb.
Not a meat eater?
Well, me neither. So that sauce also tastes pretty darn good with roasted veggies, like beets, sweet potatoes and carrots. Everybody has a place at the harvest table!
Or perhaps the Thanksgiving table, eh? I know turkey is sort of a sacred bird for the coming holiday, but isn’t it time for a change? This leg of lamb was not difficult to prepare–in many ways far less work than that big bird. A large leg of lamb, somewhere between seven and eight pounds, feeds 10 people. If you make the Lemongrass Lentil Curry a day ahead, then creating the main vegetarian side dish would simply mean reheating, and the curry feeds a shipload of pilgrims. Then, all you need is a seasoned baker to make that pumpkin or pecan pie! Be brave!