Lamb, the Taste of Spring

Switch up the mealtime routine with lamb, a delicious, healthy alternative to chicken or beef.

Plate of roasted leg lamb

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We Aussies love lamb. Relatively easy to cook, lamb is succulent and moist when prepared properly and marries well with different flavors and fresh produce. And lamb can really hold its own with spices. While rosemary is a classic seasoning for lamb, oregano and the Moroccan spice harissa are equally great counterparts to pair with different cuts.

When shopping for lamb, look at the color of the meat, which should be rosy. Avoid any cuts with a brownish tinge. The fat should be creamy white and firm and dry to the touch. It is important to buy the cut suitable for the recipe you have in mind.

During preparation, grilling, broiling, and roasting meat tends to reduce fat; frying anything is less healthy. Overcooking is the most fatal mistake home chefs make. Dry meat is a buzzkill. Break out your meat thermometer — the perfect temperature for medium rare done­ness is 130°F. Always allow the meat to rest after cooking and before serving — 30 minutes for a leg of lamb; those precious juices keep the meat moist.

I balance the richness of lamb with fresh seasonal vegetables like fresh peas or a side salad. Roasted Leg of Lamb Encased in Rosemary makes a great presentation at a holiday or dinner party. Simple and light, Arugula and Shallot Salad is the perfect companion to roasted lamb.

Roasted Leg of Lamb Encased in Rosemary

(Makes 10 servings)

  • 20 large branches fresh long-stemmed rosemary
  • 1 4 ½-pound semi-boneless leg of lamb (hip bone removed)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons finely grated lemon zest
  • 9 24-inch-long strands of kitchen twine

Fresh Mint Sauce:

  • 1 cup (not packed) fresh mint leaves
  • 1/2 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 2 tablespoons raw sugar

Directions

Soak rosemary branches in cold water for 1 hour to help prevent rosemary from burning while in the oven.

Preheat oven to 350°F. Heat heavy large cast-iron griddle pan over high heat. Coat leg of lamb with 1 tablespoon of oil and season with salt and pepper. Sear leg of lamb until brown on all sides, about 10 minutes. Transfer to baking sheet.

In small bowl, mix garlic, lemon zest, and remaining 1 tablespoon oil. Rub garlic mixture all over lamb.

Lay strands of kitchen twine horizontally across large rimmed baking sheet, spacing them evenly apart. Drain rosemary. Lay half of rosemary sprigs perpendicularly atop twine. Set lamb on top of rosemary, then cover lamb with remaining rosemary sprigs. Starting with the center twine and working outward, tie twine as tightly as possible around lamb and rosemary, completely encasing lamb with rosemary. Arrange lamb at angle on baking sheet so it fits properly. Roast lamb for about 1 hour, or until an instant-read meat thermometer registers 130°F when inserted into thickest part of meat. Transfer to carving board and let rest for 30 minutes.

To prepare mint sauce: Place mint in medium bowl. In small saucepan, bring vinegar, water, and sugar to boil over medium-high heat, stirring  until sugar dissolves. Pour vinegar mixture over mint and let steep for about 30 minutes. Season to taste with salt. Remove twine and rosemary.

To serve: Carve into thin slices and transfer to platter, then drizzle with any accumulated juices. Serve mint sauce alongside.

Per serving

  • Calories: 406
  • Total Fat: 20 g
  • Saturated Fat: 5.8 g
  • Sodium: 580 mg
  • Carbohydrate: 1 g
  • Fiber: 0 g
  • Protein: 53 g
  • Diabetic Exchanges: 9 lean meat, 1 fat

Arugula and Shallot Salad

Plate of Arugula and Shallot Salad
Arugula and Shallot Salad (Ray Kachatorian)

(Makes 8 servings)

¼ cup sherry vinegar

2 tablespoons finely chopped shallots

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

2 cloves garlic, minced

6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

8  cups wild baby arugula (not packed; about 8 ounces)

Directions

In medium bowl, whisk vinegar, shallots, lemon juice, and garlic. Gradually whisk in oil to blend well. Season vinaigrette to taste with salt. In large bowl, toss arugula with enough vinaigrette to coat lightly. Season to taste with salt. Mound the salad on plates and serve.

Make-Ahead: Vinaigrette can be made four hours ahead, covered, and refrigerated. Let vinaigrette stand at room temperature for 15 minutes and then re-whisk before using.

Per serving

Calories: 115

Total Fat: 11 g

Saturated Fat: 1 g

Sodium: 118 mg

Carbohydrate: 4 g

Fiber: 0.5 g

Protein: 1 g

Diabetic Exchanges: 0.5 vegetable, 2 fat

This article is featured in the May/June 2020 issue of The Saturday Evening Post. Subscribe to the magazine for more art, inspiring stories, fiction, humor, and features from our archives.

Featured image: roasted leg of lamb (Ray Kachatorian)

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