So apparently there are people out there in the world who don’t eat lamb. I don’t know how this is possible, frankly, though I will admit I’d never tasted lamb before I came to Idaho. Here, nearly everyone eats lamb — it’s sheep country, and the entire state’s history is based on sheep, Basque culture, and mining (but the mining only happened after the sheep).
Every spring and every fall, hundreds if not thousands of sheep herd past my house, heading to and from the national forest up north, where they are allowed to graze on federal land for a fee. Stella and I will just sit at the front door, watching herd after herd pass by, accompanied by Border Collies, Akbash and horse-riding shepherds.
How can you not feel good about eating an animal raised on green grass and sunshine, that was allowed to graze free for almost its entire life?
Maybe people are turned off by the mint jelly cliche. But if that’s the case, this is the perfect recipe to serve lamb virgins. Filled with parsley, rosemary, garlic and lemon zest, this leg of lamb is the epitome of early spring — bright and fresh while still warm and substantial.
This recipe is based on this one by Mark Bittman. You can see from the photos that I made a hash of butterflying the lamb leg and ended up with four flaps. In an ideal world, you’d find a leg already butterflied, or you can have a butcher do it for you. Tying it helps keep everything together, though it’s not strictly necessary.
Please, if you’ve never tried lamb, make this your first attempt. You won’t regret it.
- Butterflied leg of lamb, 3 to 4 pounds
- 2 to 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 4 cups parsley leaves
- 1 tablespoon fresh rosemary leaves
- 3 to 4 cloves garlic
- 1 teaspoon lemon zest
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- Heat oven to 425 degrees. Trim excess fat from lamb. In a food processor, make persillade by puréeing olive oil, parsley, rosemary, garlic, lemon zest and some salt and pepper.
- Sprinkle lamb with salt and pepper on both sides, then turn so the side that had been on the bone, the one with the more irregular surface, is facing up, with the wider end facing you. Smear the surface of lamb with persillade mixture, then fold it in half with persillade on the inside. Tie together with twine.
- Put lamb in a cast-iron skillet or roasting pan and cook for about 35 to 40 minutes for rare meat, or until an instant thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the meat reads 130 degrees, or, for medium rare, 135 degrees.
- Transfer the lamb to a cutting board and let it rest for a few minutes; slice, and serve.