Accidental Leg of Lamb: A Christmas Conundrum
Adventures in amateur cooking have taught me that the best recipes are a byproduct of desolate conditions. In the case of Christmas Day, our culinary Titanic was a prelude to a grease fire that fumigated my uncle’s house before we could even touch the antipasto.
Uncle Gerald was honorably juggling four meats—a ham and a prime rib nestled closely in the oven, another prime rib in a NuWave pressure cooker, and a leg of lamb that was still raw. All the while, I was seated in the living room pretending to be engaged in a basketball(?) game among the men when a strange fog rolled in from the east, which I assumed was a figment of my comatose imagination. This theory was debunked when the house became flooded with stifling grey matter that set off the fire alarms and poured into our lungs. Fortunately my time at Sarah Lawrence trained my body to ~outwit, outplay, outlast~ any smoky room, however, the dogs and the baby in the room had not.
We evacuated the house and huddled outside together in the 70 degree Christmas weather, contemplating the fate of our dinner.
“How will we heat the garlic bread?”
“What about the apple pie?”
“The lamb will go to waste!”
It couldn’t and it wouldn’t. Not under my watch, so I racked my brain for a solution.
Now, if only someone would shut that crying baby up so that I could concentrate.
The house aired out and my father called a time of death on the oven for the evening. My mom moved the ham and garlic bread to the outdoor grill and dad shifted the prime rib into the NuWave. The raw lamb stared back at me, exuding helplessness that smelled a lot like parmesan. Uncle Gerald poured another glass of his beloved “peeno-war” (pinot noir) wine, and suddenly, the answer became so clear.
The wine. A stovetop. An hour to spare. Let’s get this little lamb drunk.
I consulted my Aunt Barbara, a cooking school teacher, before I made a full commitment to getting my braise on. She trusted my instincts, which leads me to believe that she has never read my blog. Grudges aside, I threw a Hail Mary pass with Aunt Mary’s expensive meat in fear of creating lamb jerky.
The result was a touchdown, and I’m fortunate it was because I do not know any more football terms. The lamb was moist and flavorful, plus the braising liquid was an inadvertent second drink, which was welcome at the rate we were going. If I were to do it again, I would have removed it from the stove sooner because I’m into rarer temperatures.
Consider this recipe my belated Christmas gift to you all, and feel free to regift it back to me at any holiday of your choosing.
Accidental Christmas Lamb
Get These Things:
- One 3 lb leg of lamb, bone in
- 6 cloves of garlic, chopped, plus 2 cloves of garlic, minced
- 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
- Olive oil
- 3 cups red wine (We used a blend of “peeno-war” and merlot)
Then Do This:
Prep the Meat: Pat the meat dry before massaging salt, pepper, and parmesan cheese into every crevice of the leg. Poke holes in the meat with a knife that are just big enough to accommodate pieces of chopped garlic.
Chop the Garlic: Slice the 6 cloves of garlic into pieces that are roughly the size of your index finger’s fingernail. Shove those puppies into the stab marks you created in step one. Mince the rest of the garlic, which will be used later when you create the braising liquid.
Brown the Meat: Coat the bottom of a Dutch oven large enough to accommodate the meat with olive oil. Fire up the stovetop to medium-high heat until the oil starts to shimmer. At this point, place the lamb in the pot with the fat side down. Let it hang out in the oil for roughly 8-10 minutes before checking to see if it has browned. Only flip it over to brown on the other side when the fat side has a complexion comparable to that of Bob Barker.
Remove the meat from the heat when it is sufficiently bronze on both sides.
Scrape the Bits: Use a spatula to scrape up any of the residual brown bits (aka, flavor confetti) from the bottom of the pot. Add the 2 cloves minced garlic and sauté until they become tan and fragrant like Jennifer Lopez.
Get Drunk: Add the wine and let it come to a boil. Then, return the lamb to the pot, cover it, and cook for about 40-50 minutes. Do u have a meat thermometer? Great! Apparently an internal temperature of 140-145 °F is medium rare, 155-160 °F is medium, and 165-170 °F is well done.
Rest: Remove the lamb from the pot and allow it to rest on a cutting board under tin foil for 15 minutes.
Carve and Serve: My uncle handed me the knife, so I just kinda winged this step. The Kitchn says that you should cut it against the grain until you hit the bone, and then cut the meat from the bone (uh DOY). Plate the slices on a platter and spoon the braising liquid over the meat, retaining the rest to serve alongside.
Analyze & Discuss:
Was Santa a vegetarian?