ROASTED LEG OF LAMB
Leg of lamb, associated with spring since ancient times, is one of the one easiest, most fool proof cuts of meat to cook. It is also one of the most expensive. Most butchers offer bone-in leg of lamb in three forms: the sirloin (the hip and tail section), which is difficult to carve, the short leg (without the sirloin) and the whole leg. If you request the whole leg, the most elegant presentation, you can ask your butcher to remove the hip bone and tail to make carving easier, and ask him not to break the leg bone at the knee so that you can use the shank as a carving handle (see carving instructions below). You also can buy a boned leg of lamb if carving seems overwhelming, but it won’t be as flavorful as meat cooked on the bone.
Leg of lamb is a tender cut that won’t require marinating to break down connective tissue, although you might choose to marinate it to impact flavor. Cooking time is a personal preference, but most people like lamb rare or medium rare, between 125* and 130* on an instant read thermometer. Always take the temperature of the meat with an instant read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the roast, not touching the bone, and left in the meat for at least 15 seconds so that it can register. Take the roast out when it reaches 125* because the temperature will rise about 10* while the leg rests and the hot juices from the exterior circulate to the interior of the meat. Any leg between 5 to 8 pounds will take between 1-1/4 and 1-1/2 hours of roasting to reach 125*. Legs weighing 9 to 10 pounds will take another 10 to 15 minutes. Resting time should be 20 to 25 minutes or so.
Julia Child, writing in The Way to Cook, provides the following instructions for carving a whole leg of lamb: “Holding it with a napkin in your left hand, raise the shank end of the leg at an angle. With the knife almost parallel to the surface of the meat, start at the bulge midway between the shank and the large end, cutting a long, thin, flat first slice. Lift it off, arrange it on a hot plate or platter, and start the next slice at a slight angle right or left. Continue, angling your knife to either side as you come to the main leg bone; finally turn the leg over to carve the underside.”