Roast Leg Of Lamb!There two schools of thought concerning the best temperature for roasting a leg of lamb. Low temperature slow roasting has become popular in recent years, but roasting a leg of lamb at a high temperature is the classic method.
Low temperature slow roasting is what many chefs recommend for beef or lamb in this modern age. Slow roasting usually yields a generic texture and flavor that is average at best. Low temperature slow roasted lamb may be tender and juicy, but the full rich flavor of lamb does not develop. Low temperature roasting is very forgiving, so the roasting time is not quite as critical, but slow roasting for too much time will result in dense dry meat that has very little flavor.
High temperature roasting produces more caramelization, a richer flavor, better meat color and a superior texture. High temperature roasting is less forgiving, so a cook has to be right on the money or the leg of lamb will be raw near the bones or the outer portion will be way overcooked. High temperature roasting seals in flavor and it allows the intramuscular fats to produce tender meat quickly, so more color is retained.
While apprenticing with a French chef from Corsica, I learned to roast lamb at a high temperature, so rich caramelized flavors were created. The aroma of lamb that is roasted at a high temperature is nearly overwhelming. When people outside of the restaurant caught a whiff in the air, it was difficult to resist stepping through the door.
Later in my career while working as a sauté chef and saucier at an exclusive yacht club, I was responsible for organizing the menu selections for an international food theme night each week. The manager of the yacht club selected seven international recipes for the special du jour menu and it was my job to quickly research the selections, then prepare the international food items.
One week the yacht club manager selected a roast leg of lamb recipe from a great Italian restaurant in Chicago for international food night. The lamb leg was specially prepared by marinating for one day, then inserting a mixture of garlic, prosciutto, herbs and Parmigiana Cheese into holes that were poked deep into the meat. The recipe also required that the leg of lamb be roasted in a 650ºF to 850ºF oven. That is very high roasting temperature!
I prepared the Chicago Italian leg of lamb recipe exactly as it was written. After roasting the lamb legs at a high temperature for fifteen minutes, the roasted lamb aroma was absolutely mouth watering! Everybody in the restaurant was asking what was cooking. A little while later, the lamb was roasting at such a high temperature that smoke from the dripping fat was billowing out of the oven! The kitchen was filled with roasted lamb smoke, then the fire alarms went off! We all knew why the fire alarms went off, so there was no panic.
When the fire alarms go off at an exclusive yacht club, the fire department responds in no time flat. Every available fire truck and fireman responded to the alarm about a dozen fire fighters stampeded through the back door kitchen that was filled with lamb fat smoke. The first words out of the fire chief's mouth was "Man! Does that smell good!" I explained where the smoke was coming from and that just about caused the firemen to start drooling with hunger filled awe. The yacht club chef walked over and he was trying not to laugh about the situation. Everybody was standing there fanning smoke from their eyes and licking their lips. The high temperature special roasted lamb smelled incredibly good!
The fire fighters ended up just hanging around for a while, like they were waiting for the lamb legs to come out of the oven. It looked like these guys were used to getting some free handouts when they responded to calls like this. The chef announced to the fire fighters that this was a members only club, with a non profit food cost budget and we really could not feed them roasted lamb for lunch without getting fired from our jobs. The chef really knew what to say, but the fire fighters looked a little bit disappointed, so I asked "Who does the cooking at the fire house?" A couple of the firemen responded. I quickly wrote down the lamb recipe and handed it to the firemen, then mentioned that the lamb legs must be cooked between 650º and 850º degrees to get them just right. I also said, "Be careful when you cook this recipe, because the fire department will probably show up when the alarms go off!" We all laughed and the fire fighters left smiling with a copy of the lamb recipe.
Roasting at an extra high temperature is best done outdoors or in a well ventilated restaurant kitchen. Most home kitchen ovens have a maximum temperature of 450ºF, so writing a 650ºF temperature roast lamb recipe would only appeal to a very limited audience. Even so, traditional high temperature roasting is usually done between 350ºF and 450ºF, so a traditional lamb roasting method can be done in a home kitchen with good results. Smoke will be produced, so be sure to turn the fans on and open the windows. The aroma will make the neighbors hungry, so expect uninvited dinner guests to be knocking at the door!
Follow the link to the recipe in this website.
Light Color Espagnole For Lamb:
This recipe yields about 2 cups.
For lamb, a Red Roux is used to make the Espagnole instead of a Brown Roux. Using a red roux makes it is easier to identify the lamb sauce in a busy kitchen and a lighter color is traditional for a sauce that is flavored with fennel.
Any extra Sauce Espagnole can be refrigerated for 7 days or frozen for later use.
Step 1: Heat a sauce pot over medium heat.
Add 3 cups of beef stock.
Add 2 ounces of Madiera Wine or Dry Sherry.
Bring the liquid to a gentle boil.
Step 2: Heat a sauce pot over medium heat.
Make a rusty red color roux with 2 ounces of unsalted butter and and equal amount of flour while constantly stirring over medium/medium high heat.
*Do not stop stirring or the roux will scorch!
Keep stirring till the roux turns a rusty red color.
Remove the pot from the heat.
Step 3: Only add enough of the red roux to the meat stock pot to thicken the beef stock to a very thin sauce consistency. Whisk until the roux is combined. (Any extra roux can be saved for another recipe.)
Step 4: Reduce the temperature to low heat.
Simmer and reduce the Sauce Espagnole, till it is a thin sauce consistency that can glaze the back of a spoon.
Pour the sauce through a fine mesh strainer into a container and set it aside.
Roasted Leg of Lamb with Fennel:
This recipe yields a 24 ounce roasted boneless section of lamb leg. (3 to 4 portions)
A section of whole lamb leg or a section of boneless lamb leg can be used for this recipe. Add about 5 more ounces if the bone is attached.
The vegetables and fennel in the pan will caramelize dark. They are not meant to be served. They will fortify the deglazed pan jus for making the Fennel Demi Glace.
Step 1: Select a 24 ounce boneless section of lamb leg.
*Do not trim the fat off. The caramelized fat is what creates the mouthwatering flavor.
Use butcher twine to truss the boneless lamb leg section, so it retains an even round shape.
Rub the lamb leg section with 2 to 3 tablespoons of blended olive oil.
Rub 5 cloves of minced garlic on the lamb meat.
Season with sea salt and black pepper.
Sprinkle 1 tablespoon of rosemary leaves over the lamb and press the herb onto the meat.
Step 2: Place 1 1/2 cups of coarse chopped green fennel bulb tops in a deep roasting pan.
Add 1/4 cup of coarse chopped onion.
Add 1/4 cup of coarse chopped carrot.
Add 1/4 cup of coarse chopped celery.
Add 1 tablespoon of blended olive oil.
Add 1 pinch of sea salt and black pepper.
Toss the vegetables together.
Step 3: Mound the coarse chopped fennel tops and vegetables on the center of the roasting pan.
Place the prepared lamb leg section on the bed of vegetables, with the fat side facing up.
Place the roasting pan in a 425ºF to 450ºF oven.
Roast the lamb to the desired finish temperature.
*Medium (135ºF center temperature) to Well Done (160ºF center temperature) is best for leg of lamb, because the full flavors will develop.
Step 4: Remove the pan from the oven.
Place the lamb leg section on a wire screen roasting rack over a drip pan.
Let the lamb leg rest on a warm stove top for at least 5 minutes before carving.
Set the roasting pan with the caramelized fennel and vegetables aside.
Fennel Lamb Jus:
This recipe yields about 1 cup of reduced jus.
The deglazed fennel lamb pan jus replaces Glace Viande in the Demi Glace recipe.
Step 1: Place the roasting pan on a burner set to low heat.
Add 3 cups of water.
Add 1 teaspoon of crushed or coarse ground fennel seed.
Gently use a wooden spoon or whisk to scrape the brown bits (suc) that are stuck to the pan to create au jus.
Simmer the caramelized vegetables, fennel tops and jus for 5 minutes.
Step 2: Remove the roasting pan from the heat.
Pour the jus through a fine mesh strainer into a sauce pot. (Discard the solid ingredients.)
Step 3: Place the pot over medium low heat.
Skim off any grease that floats to the top.
Simmer and reduce till 1 cups of Fennel Lamb Jus remains.
Remove the pot from the heat.
Fennel Lamb Demi Glacé:Step 1: Place the sauce pot containing 1 cup of reduced Fennel Lamb Jus over medium low heat.
This recipe yields about 1 1/4 cups. (4 generous portions)
This recipe yields about 1 1/4 cups. (4 generous portions)
Add 1 cup of the Light Color Espagnole For Lamb.
Simmer and reduce till the sauce is a thin consistency that can glaze a spoon. (The yield should be about 1 1/4 cups.)
Step 2: Pour the sauce into a ceramic ramekin or sauce boat.
Keep the sauce warm on a stove top or in a 135ºF bain marie.
Roast Leg of Lamb with Fennel Demi Glace and Danish Bleu Cheese:
This recipe describes 1 entrée presentation.
Danish Bleu is a soft double cream bleu cheese. It has to be sliced before it is crumbled.
Step 1: Brush all of the rosemary off of the surface of the roasted lamb.
Remove the trussing twine.
Step 2: Place the roast leg of lamb on a cutting board.
*There should be no need to trim off the fat, because the bulk of it should have sputtered away while roasting at a high temperature.
Slice the roasted lamb into 1/4" thick slices.
Step 3: Overlap the lamb slices across the front half of a plate. (A 6 to 8 ounce portion.)
Place a vegetable and potatoes of your choice on the back half of the plate.
Step 4: Spoon a generous amount of the Fennel Demi Glace over the sliced lamb and onto the plate. (About 2 ounces.)
Sprinkle about 2 tablespoons of crumbled Danish Bleu Cheese over the lamb.
Garnish the plate with an Italian Parsley sprig.
Roasting at a high temperature seals in the juices and the lamb becomes very tender. I only used a fork to cut the lamb in the photos while dining, even though the lamb was cooked well done by personal preference! The flavor of high temperature roasted lamb is noticeably better than slow roasted lamb!