Story and photos by Manos Angelakis
Roasted Leg of Lamb a la Grecque
In early spring, especially around Easter time, is when legs from young lambs are at their beast to roast and serve. The traditional Greek-style lamb is most commonly roasted whole, over a charcoal fire on a revolving spit. However, not everyone has a garden or space to create a firepit to roast a lamb -- which takes between 4 or 5 hours, to cook properly.
In my family, our Easter lamb had been always oven-roasted, as a leg of lamb with lemon potatoes..
My mother used a number of herbs to flavor the meat that included thyme, oregano and rosemary, all traditional Greek herbs used with lamb meat. She usually roasted the leg over lemon potatoes, using the meat drippings to also flavor the potatoes. It was a feast for us.
I have modified her recipe by making a paste of preferably fresh oregano, thyme, fresh mint, garlic powder, sea salt and coarsely ground Malabar black pepper in a mixture of lemon juice and extra virgin olive oil. The paste is rubbed all over the leg, which is then put in the refrigerator for 3 to 4 hours to marinate. Before applying the paste, I sliver 2 or 3 good-sized cloves of garlic, depending on the size of the leg, create slits in the meat with a sharp, pointy knife and I insert the garlic slivers in the slits, then rub the entire leg with the lemon skins left over from juicing 2 lemons to make the lemon potatoes. (If fresh oregano and mint are not available, the dry version can be used but 1 tsp each of dry herbs are recommended).
The oven is preheated to 365° F. Once the proper temperature is reached, the leg and potatoes are put in the oven. 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil, 1/4 of a cup lemon juice and 1/2 cup water are poured over the potatoes, then salted and peppered to taste.
I start checking the meat with a thermometer after 2 hours and when the internal temperature reaches 150° F I take the meat and potatoes out of the oven, remove the meat to a platter and let it rest for about 15 minutes as both I and my wife like the meat on the rare side. After the meat is removed, the potatoes are returned to the oven for another 1/2 hour. When the potatoes are done (they are soft) the oven is turned off and the potatoes are put under the broiler to crisp up for 10 to 12 minutes. If I wanted the meat well done, I would bring the internal temperature to 160° F. I think that the recommended 175° F makes the meat too dry and I would not recommend it for a small lamb, only perhaps for mutton.
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