Roasted Leg of Lamb with Tart Pickled Cherries
Lamb is perfect set against the tartness of cherries. There is no better time of year than now to be eating young lamb legs. A word on cooking them: About 10 years ago, I watched Jamie Oliver do a demo where he used his oven rack to cook his lamb. No pan at all. Instead, he used a big pan on the rack below the lamb to catch the drippings—a pan you can fill with potatoes, whole peeled shallots, leeks, carrots and parsnips. It’s one of those simple “why didn’t I think of that” ideas that is ideal for lamb, allowing home cooks to get lamb legs crispy and roasted all the way around. I use small young lamb hindquarters with the aitch bone removed and cook them to medium-rare. I pull them from the oven and let them rest for a good 20 minutes, then slice and serve.
A word about mint sauce: Yes, I always serve it. Yes, I make my own and yes, it’s easy. Boil water, sugar, cider vinegar, minced shallots and a big whopping handful of minced mint until the liquids are lightly syrupy. Cool and serve.
Passover Lamb with Pickled Cherries
- 1 cup apple cider vinegar
- 1 cup packed light brown sugar
- 1 cup water
- One 2-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and thinly sliced
- 6 garlic cloves, crushed
- 1 jalapeño, thinly sliced crosswise
- 1 tablespoon mustard seeds
- 1 small cinnamon stick
- 1 star anise pod
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 pound Bing cherries, pitted
- 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 tablespoons minced garlic
- 2 tablespoons minced rosemary
- 2 tablespoons minced thyme
- One let of lamb, roughly 4 1/2 pounds, at room temperature (aitch bone removed)
- Kosher salt
Make the Cherries
In a medium saucepan, combine all of the ingredients except the cherries and bring to a boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Let cool completely, then add the cherries and let stand at room temperature for at least 1 hour and up to 3 hours. Drain the cherries and transfer to a bowl; discard the brine.
For the Lamb
Preheat the oven to 400° and set a rack on a baking sheet. In a small bowl, whisk the olive oil with the garlic, rosemary and thyme. Season the lamb generously with salt and pepper. Rub the garlic-herb oil all over the lamb and transfer it to the rack.
Roast the lamb for about 1 hour and 20 minutes, until an instant-read thermometer inserted in the thickest part of the meat registers 130°. Transfer the lamb to a carving board and let rest for 30 minutes. Carve the lamb and serve with the pickled cherries.
MAKE AHEAD The drained pickled cherries can be refrigerated overnight.
NOTES If you can find it, try using milk-fed lamb that’s about eight weeks old. The legs will be very small (a few pounds), but do several and cook them for a little less time. If you are using spring lamb, don’t go for anything older than three-to-five months, born in late winter or early spring. These should weigh about 4 pounds with the aitch bone and shank off.
Originally published in Andrew Zimmern’s Kitchen Adventures on foodandwine.com.
Photograph by Madeleine Hill.