STUFFED LEG OF LAMB
with Karen Ralph
After the cheer and excitement of December, looking at three more months of cold and snow is a gloomy proposition, but a gathering of friends helps drive away the winter blues. There’s something attractively primal about gathering around a table in the gloom of winter and eating a perfectly roasted leg of lamb.
Traditionally I’d always rubbed the lamb leg with salt and pepper and roasted it on a bed of lemon slices and rosemary. But after a trip to France’s Jura
region, specifically a visit to a Boucherie in Dole, I discovered a tastier and more interesting way to cook lamb; I was working as First Mate on a barge and on a quiet afternoon had biked into town. There, I saw a small, perfectly formed leg of lamb, shank bone stripped clean of flesh, the meaty upper leg stuffed with morel mushrooms and herbs and neatly bound with butchers twine. I had to have it! Back to the boat, I coated the lamb with a paste of minced garlic, lemon juice, Dijon mustard and honey and roasted it. That was a memorable feast – cooked and consumed in the galley kitchen while moored on the mighty Doubs river. Since then, I’ve cooked this stuffed leg of lamb many times. It’s always a spirit-reviving feast.
Stuffed Leg of Lamb with Pear Habanero Compote for a Snowy Soirée
To make this like the lamb I had in the Jura, the thigh bone is removed. You are not butterflying the leg – the bone is removed without cutting the leg open – the better to stuff the cavity. If you are a confident with your knife skills you can do it yourself, or you can do as I did and utilize your local butcher to do the boning and stuffing for you. This brought me to Dave Sturies, co-owner and head butcher of Empire Provisions. Dave’s free range lamb comes from local producer Ewe-Nique Farms. He was happy to help and expertly boned and stuffed the leg with bread crumbs, minced garlic, chopped flat leaf parsley, tarragon and rosemary. It couldn’t have been easier. Diced morel mushrooms are traditionally used as stuffing, but I cooked the mushrooms on the side. The pear habanero compote is optional – but it’s very complimentary to the lamb and can be made ahead of time and frozen until needed.
Pear Habanero Compote
- 4 c. water
- 2 c. sugar
- 4 pears, washed and quartered, stems removed
- 1 habanero pepper, seeds removed, sliced into horizontal strips
Bring the water and sugar to a boil, add the pear and habanero and boil to a pulp. Strain the liquid and allow the pulp to cool. Remove pear seeds and stringy bits, mash and use immediately as a side with the lamb.
Stuffed Leg of Lamb
- 1 5-7 lb. leg of lamb, thigh bone removed
- 1 good quality baguette, dried out and pulverized into crumbs
- 1 head garlic (I recommend Russian Red) minced
- 1 bunch flat leaf parsley, chopped
- 3 sprigs of rosemary, chopped
- 1 bunch tarragon chopped or other herbs of your choice
- 2 T. extra virgin olive oil
- 1 T. kosher salt
- generous grindings of pepper
- 2 T. grape seed or other oil with high smoke point
- 1 bunch rosemary or tarragon to set the lamb on while roasting
Preheat oven to 325°F. Remove the stuffed leg of lamb from the refrigerator about an hour before cooking to ensure even roasting. Rub the meat with the olive oil, salt and pepper. Heat the grape-seed oil in a frying pan over medium high heat, add the leg of lamb and sear until brown all over, about 3-5 minutes a side. Place a bed of tarragon or rosemary in the roasting pan, lay the seared leg of lamb on top of it and put it in the oven. For medium rare, roast the lamb for 20 minutes a pound. The internal temperature should be 135°F. When the lamb is cooked, remove from the oven and let rest for at least 15 minutes. This relaxes the meat and allows the juices to be reabsorbed.
Place the lamb on a cutting board and slice – there is no bone – simply slice straight down to the desired thickness. Serve on a platter with roasted potatoes or polenta and a side of sautéed mushrooms like morels or chanterelles. The pear habanero compote adds a mellow warmth.
1. Removing the thigh bone.
2. Stuffing the leg with bread crumbs, garlic and herbs.
3. Searing the leg.
4. Resting the leg.
5. Slicing the leg.
6. Cooked stuffed lamb sliced and delicious.
Karen Ralph is a cookbook co-author and long-time contributor to City Palate, whose syrups and shrubs can be found at Eau Claire Distillery.