For the za’atar:

6 tablespoons sesame seeds

3 tablespoons dried thyme

3 tablespoons dried oregano

6 tablespoons ground sumac

3 teaspoons salt

For the leg of lamb:

½ cup black olive oil

½ cup olive oil

1-1/2 teaspoons salt

one 7 to 8 pound bone-in leg of lamb

4 sprigs rosemary, 2 chopped, 2 left whole

2 heads of garlic, papery skins removed

2 medium Spanish onions, cut into quarters

2 medium red onions, cut into quarters

1 cup dry red wine

1. Preheat the oven to 450*.

2. Make the za’atar. Toast the sesame seeds in a small sauté pan over low heat until golden brown, about 1-1/2 minutes. Remove from the heat and set aside to cool. Mix together the thyme, oregano and sumac in a small bowl, then stir in the sesame seeds and salt. Measure out ¾ cup of the za’atar and store the rest for another use. (Store in a tightly sealed container in a cool, dark place for up to 2 weeks. Za’atar can be used as a snack – dunk pita in a flavorful olive oil and then in za’atar, or sprinkle it over plain yogurt and drizzle with olive oil for a dip.)

3. Whisk together the za’atar, both oils and the salt in a small bowl. Rub over the lamb leg to thoroughly coat.

4. Place the 2 whole rosemary sprigs in the bottom of a roasting pan. Place the lamb fat side up on a rack on top of the rosemary in the pan. Set lamb in oven and immediately turn the heat down to 350*. When 45 minutes are up, baste with fat that has accumulated in the bottom of the pan. Scatter the garlic, chopped rosemary, Spanish onions and red onions around the lamb and add the red wine to the pan.

5. After 1 hour, start testing for doneness. Any leg of lamb from 5 to 8 pounds will take between 1-1/4 to 1-1/2 hours to reach an internal meat thermometer reading of 125* (insert thermometer into the thickest part of the leg – without touching the bone).

120* very rare

125* rosy rare

130* medium rare

140* medium – the official “safe” temperature where all harmful bacteria are killed
(essentially overcooked)

6. As soon as the lamb is done, remove it from the oven and place on a carving board or platter. Discard any trussing strings. Let it stand for between 15 and 25 minutes before carving so that its juices can retreat back into the meat. The internal temperature of the lamb will rise somewhat during this process.

7. If the lamb must wait longer still, tent aluminum foil over it to keep it warm. You can use a warming oven, but make sure the temperature does not exceed 120* or the lamb will continue to cook. You can keep it warm for an hour or more.


from Marcus Samuelson, The Soul of a New Cuisine


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