Last week’s New York Times Magazine contained a piece by Mark Bittman with three yummy-sounding recipes for leg of lamb.
As I read them, I thought, I should try one of these. And then I remembered why I probably won’t: I have my own concoction that lifts lamb to a height I should probably call Amazing Taste. So flavorful that my friend Ellen – who says she doesn’t really like lamb – will dig into it with gusto.
The key is the spice rub, which I discovered in my early single days in Manhattan. It comes from Craig Claiborne’s New York Times Cookbook, the original edition (1961), and the first grown-up cookbook I ever owned. It appears in the book to be almost an afterthought, but I fell in love with the list of ingredients that at the time encompassed almost every condiment I had in my larder.
Amazing Roast Leg of Lamb
6-7 pounds bone-in leg of lamb, trimmed of excess fat (also works fine with boneless leg, which is easier to carve and may take less time, but is not quite as flavorful)
2-3 cloves garlic
2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons freshly ground pepper
1 teaspoon powdered ginger
2 bay leaves, crushed
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon dried sage
1 teaspoon dried marjoram
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons salad oil
Mix well the ingredients to the rub. Make small slits all over the lamb, and massage the rub into the meat. Let sit 30 minutes to an hour. (You can let it sit more; if so, refrigerate the lamb while it sits).
Preheat the oven to 450º. Set the lamb on a rack in a roasting pan, and roast 30 minutes. Reduce the temperature to 350º, and continue cooking for another 30 minutes. After that, using an instant meat thermometer, check the temperature of the meat every 10 minutes, until it reaches 145º in the thickest part. It should not need to cook more than 1½ hours. Let it sit for 5 minutes before carving.
Kitchen Goddess note: You can test for doneness by pressing the meat with your fingers – it will be slightly resistant at rare/medium rare, and more resistant for medium. Also, if you prick the meat with a fork, the juice that comes out will be rosy for medium-rare, almost clear for medium.