I wish I’d “set the scene” for these pictures. This was a beautiful roast but my numerous cutting boards and the plastic veneer kitchen cabinets are just…well, anyway.
One of my New Year’s resolutions is to read the instructions that came with my camera which will instantly turn my pictures into professionally photographed , edible, food porn. I hope.
I love lamb. I love New Zealand lamb. American lamb has a cereal like taste and the French lamb, while possessing the necessary gamey tang of superior quality lamb, still gets “smoked” by the sweet, grassy taste of the woolies from New Zealand. In addition, imported New Zealand lamb is cheaper than the local French lamb which is fine by me! Of course, my neighbor M. Parret says that I lack a “palate”, citing my refusal to prefer Millesime or vintage Champagnes to the pale, younger and less potent Champagnes. He says it’s because I’m an American. Well.
Every summer the Sens supermarkets bring in a huge shipment of New Zealand lamb; lamb legs, lamb chops, racks of lamb. The lamb legs are sold whole or cut into steaks. These steaks are one of my favorite discoveries since coming to France. Grilled with summer vegetables and served with a fresh pesto sauce and a glass of Rose, these babies are fiendish! That’s why I needed an American refrigerator so that I can stock up for the winter.
Mutton, the ugly step-parents of lamb is such a tragedy. It tastes old, it’s fatty and has the texture of indifferently prepared Togolese bush rat(yes, I tried it). Goat, when stuffed with onions, garlic and herbs and roasted in a slow oven, can almost be mistaken for lamb, in a Mediterranean type way. While mutton, refusing to acknowledge it’s shortcomings, remains mutton whether boiled, fried, roasted or grilled. In the last 30 years, I must have attended hundreds, if not thousands of mutton Mechouis( West African birth/marriage/welcome/farewell celebration with spit roasted mutton), never feeling hungry nor satisfied.
PESTO LEG OF LAMB
7-9 lbs New Zealand Leg of Lamb
2 cups of fresh basil leaves
5 large cloves of garlic
1/2 cup of pine nuts
1/2 cup of olive oil
1/2 cup of grated Parmesan cheese
Salt and pepper to taste
Pick the basil leaves from the stems, wash and set aside to drain. Add the garlic, pine nuts and olive oil to a blender or food processor and chop. Add the basil in batches and continue chopping until a thick paste is formed. Blend in the Parmesan. Salt and pepper.
Massage 1 cup of the pesto into the lamb leg. Put the marinated lamb in an enormous zip lock bag or cover with saran wrap and refrigerate over night. Refrigerate the remaining pesto.
Remove the lamb from the refrigerator and allow to come to room temperature. Preheat oven to 450. Thickly spread the reserved pesto on the lamb leg and sear in the 450 oven for 15 to 20 minutes. Reduce the oven temperature to 350 and continue to cook 8 minutes per pound for medium rare or 10 minutes per pound for medium.
Okay, okay. Well done is 18 minutes per pound, if you are absolutely sure you want it that way.
Remove the roast from the oven, let it rest for about 20 minutes, slice and enjoy.
Wine suggestion: St. Emilion or another Bordeaux