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wundayatta's avatar

Leg of lamb meal advice?

Asked by wundayatta (58738points) December 19th, 2011

So I’ve decided to have leg of lamb for Christmas dinner. There might be 11 or 12 people, or maybe only 9, I think. I have some ideas, and would love to hear suggestions, and I have some more specific questions.

With the lamb, I’m wondering which half of the leg I should use. I don’t think I need the whole leg, so maybe the upper half? I don’t think I want to do much other than to roast it in garlic and rosemary. But if you have some other idea about that, please share.

I know for sure I want to have pan-roasted fingerling potatoes. I love the texture of those potatoes and they go well with lamb gravy.

I also want some kind of mint sauce—maybe a fresh mint infused with rasberry vinegar?

So what else? I have this idea of a kind of latke made of celeriac, and a sweet potato (I have orange, purple and white available). But then, that’s a lot of last minute frying work. For some reason the idea of spanakopita came to mind—some kind of spinach and dough thing—quiche-like? But isn’t spanakopita a huge labor drain?

Do you have vegetable suggestions? This is a family that is not into nightshades or much cruciferous stuff.

Go wild, jellies!

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9 Answers

JLeslie's avatar

Spanakopita is good even when bought in the freezer section premade, you just bake those, so much easier. But, would that be as an appetizer? Or, put out at the same time as the Lamb?

I make orzo with a little olive oil, spinach and mushrooms, touch of salt to taste. But, not sure if you want another starch along with your potatoes? You can serve the orzo hot or cold, I like it hot.

Some sort of eggplant thing sounds good to me too. Just roasted or marinated. I only make eggplant parmasian myself at home, so I don’t have a recipe for you, but I have had delicious eggplant made many different ways.

In fact maybe a roasted medley of veggies, eggplant, zucchini, yellow and red peppers. I love putting that suff in salads too.

marinelife's avatar

Yes, use the upper half.

The spanikopita would be very good. It is not hard to make, just a little time consuming working with the phyllo dough, but you could make it ahead and freeze it on a baking pan, then just cook it on Christmas Day.

Sunny2's avatar

Sounds good to me already. We serve pickled walnuts as a relish with lamb. If you like quite sour things, they’re lovely. They come in a jar. No fuss. Creamed spinach is an easier dish than spanikopita.. Just add cream cheese, salt and pepper to chopped fresh or frozen spinach. You can also fill large mushrooms with the creamed spinach, top with Parmesan cheese and bake 10 minutes until the cheese melts and browns a little. Caramelized carrots are good with lamb too and add a color note.

Qingu's avatar

Spanikopita is one of the few dishes that I have sworn to never make again. Maybe @marinelife is just way better at handling phyllo dough than I am, but I would rather kill myself.

Here’s CI’s leg of lamb recipe:

Note: Look for rolled, boneless leg of lamb wrapped in netting, not butterflied and wrapped on a tray. The desirable cut is the “shank end,” which is the whole boneless leg without the sirloin muscle attached. If only bone-in or semi-boneless leg is available, ask your butcher to remove the bones for you. Plan on spending about 30 minutes trimming the lamb of fat and silver skin. This advance work is well worth the effort; your roasts will present elegantly and have a much cleaner flavor. (That said, even 10 minutes of trimming will improve the taste dramatically, see instructions below). If you opt for the 30-minute trim, you will have enough meat scraps left over to make the Roasted Garlic Jus. The lamb can be trimmed, brined, rubbed with paste, and tied, then stored overnight in the refrigerator (do not season the meat). Allow the lamb to stand at room temperature for 30 minutes before proceeding with the recipe.

Lamb and Brine
¼ cup kosher salt (or 2 tablespoons table salt)
¼ cup sugar
12 medium cloves garlic , crushed
5 – 7 pound boneless leg of domestic lamb with sirloin muscle removed

Garlic-Parsley Paste
2 medium heads garlic , outer papery skins removed and top third of head cut off and discarded
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley leaves
Kosher salt and ground black pepper
3 tablespoons vegetable oil


1. Combine salt, sugar, and crushed garlic with 2 quarts water in large bowl or container; stir until salt and sugar dissolve. Prepare lamb as shown through illustration 4 (see below, “Preparing the Lamb” —note from Qingu, I’m copying and pasting the instructions here, but no pictures, sorry).

1a. Unroll lamb. Following natural seams (delineated by lines of fat), separate into three smaller roasts, using sharp boning knife as needed.

1b. Trim visible fat and gristle from exterior of each roast. With small, pointed cuts, penetrate deeper to remove interior pockets of gristle, fat, and silver skin. (Roasts open up and flatten slightly during trimming.)

1c. As you trim meat, remove any large, meaty scraps that come loose from larger pieces (you will have about 1½ cups scraps). Reserve these for making Roasted Garlic Jus (see related recipe), if desired.

1d. Lightly score inside of each roast, making ¼-inch-deep cuts spaced 1 inch apart in crosshatch pattern.

1e. Rub scored surface of brined lamb with garlic-parsley paste, working paste into grooves.

1f. Roll into compact roast, tucking in flaps, to form log shape. Tie with twine at 1-inch intervals.

ALTERNATIVELY: You can also simply separate the lamb into 3 roasts and spend just 10 minutes trimming, concentrating on the exterior fat and gristle, then cut a deep, lengthwise pocket into each roast, rub the paste on the interior surface, and tie the roasts.

FINALLY: Submerge lamb in brine, cover, and refrigerate for 2 hours.

2. While lamb brines, adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 400 degrees. Place garlic heads cut side up on sheet of aluminum foil and drizzle with olive oil. Wrap foil tightly around garlic; place on baking sheet and roast until cloves are very soft and golden brown, 40 to 45 minutes. When cool enough to handle, squeeze garlic head to remove cloves from skins. Mash cloves into paste with side of chef’s knife. Combine 2 tablespoons garlic paste and parsley in small bowl. (Reserve remaining paste for Roasted Garlic Jus, if making; see related recipe.)

3. Remove lamb from brine and pat dry with paper towels. Finish lamb preparation (illustrations 5 and 6). Season each roast with salt and pepper.

4. Heat vegetable oil in 12-inch ovensafe skillet over medium-high heat until shimmering. Place lamb roasts in skillet and cook until well browned on all sides, about 12 minutes total. Place skillet in oven and roast until instant-read thermometer inserted into center of each roast reads 125 degrees for medium-rare, or 130 to 135 degrees for medium to medium-well. (Roasting time will range from 8 to 25 minutes depending on size of roasts; begin checking after 7 minutes and transfer each roast to platter as it reaches desired temperature.) Let lamb rest, tented with foil, about 15 minutes. Snip twine off roasts, cut into ¼-inch slices, and serve.


For a side, I really like CI’s mashed potatoes with root vegetables. It’s not a make-ahead dish, but it’s easy and mashes right in the pan, no draining required. You’ll have to double it though.

Russet potatoes will yield a slightly fluffier, less creamy mash, but they can be used in place of the Yukon Gold potatoes if desired. Rinsing the potatoes in several changes of water reduces starch and prevents the mashed potatoes from becoming gluey. It is important to cut the potatoes and root vegetables into even-sized pieces so they cook at the same rate. This recipe can be doubled and cooked in a large Dutch oven. If doubling, increase the cooking time in step 2 to 40 minutes.

4tablespoons unsalted butter
8ounces carrots , parsnips, turnips, or celery root, peeled; carrots or parsnips cut into ¼-inch-thick half-moons; turnips or celery root cut into ½-inch dice (about 1½ cups)
1½pounds Yukon Gold potatoes , peeled, quartered lengthwise, and cut crosswise into ¼-inch-thick slices; rinsed well in 3 or 4 changes of cold water and drained well
⅓cup low-sodium chicken broth
Table salt
¾cup half-and-half , warmed
3tablespoons minced fresh chives
Ground black pepper


1. Melt butter in large saucepan over medium heat. When foaming subsides, add root vegetables and cook, stirring occasionally, until butter is browned and vegetables are dark brown and caramelized, 10 to 12 minutes. (If after 4 minutes vegetables have not started to brown, increase heat to medium-high.)

2. Add potatoes, broth, and ¾ teaspoon salt and stir to combine. Cook, covered, over low heat (broth should simmer gently; do not boil), stirring occasionally, until potatoes fall apart easily when poked with fork and all liquid has been absorbed, 25 to 30 minutes. (If liquid does not gently simmer after a few minutes, increase heat to medium-low.) Remove pan from heat; remove lid and allow steam to escape for 2 minutes.

3. Gently mash potatoes and root vegetables in saucepan with potato masher (do not mash vigorously). Gently fold in warm half-and-half and chives. Season with salt and pepper to taste; serve immediately.

Qingu's avatar

Wow I realize after poasting all that that that lamb recipe is complicated as all hell. Good luck, if you wanna make it…

Kardamom's avatar

The good news is that you can probably make your latkes ahead of time, then freeze or refrigerate them, then reheat them on a cookie sheet in the oven. Here is some info about Preparing Latkes Ahead of Time

For a side dish, I would suggest Roasted Root Vegetables with a Balsamic Glaze (note: this recipe calls for a veggie called a swede, which unbeknownst to me is another name for a rutabaga, who knew?)

This sounds good too, Roasted Carrots with Orange Juice and Sweet Paprika

Or maybe you’d like this Swiss Chard, Mushroom, Asparagus and Quinoa Salad

Or this Wild Mushroom and White Bean Casoulet which I found paired with a recipe for lamb chops, so it should have the right flavor combo for leg of lamb.

Although this recipe does not include raspberry, I thought you might consider making a Mint Chutney, which is often served with lamb in East Indian cooking. (Note: use unsweetened coconut, which you can get at Whole Foods or other specialty grocery stores). Of course, you would have to double or triple the recipe depending upon the number of guests you have.

Have a very Merry and delicious Christmas Wundy!

Neizvestnaya's avatar

Potato/onion Latkes are delicious with sour creme that’s got a dab of Sriracha folded in.

Use the upper leg of lamb. I’m not a recipe person, I just go by what I think tastes good and then experiment. This has led to a lamb baste that works well enough to get lots of compliments on. In a small pan of water I boil onion, garlic, bell pepper then strain the broth to mix with crushed black pepper, the roasting lamb fat and a few tsp of tomato paste.

Root vegies are yum! Can you get a hold of Jerusalem artichokes? quivers over here thinking of lamb goodness.

rooeytoo's avatar

Well, I won’t be attending, I hate lamb!!! I don’t know how those NZ folks can stand to live on it!

janbb's avatar

Just one opinion on latkes if you are going to make them; they are much, much better when served right after frying rather than reheated. Whole ’ nother animal, err – vegetable.

OTOH, storebought spanikopita is very good and it would be easy to buy that frozen and bake it. To make it from scratch is a royal pain in the ass. (My husband made baklava once and barely lived to tell the tale.)

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