Spring means baby animals frolicking through green pastures. The smell of a field after the rain. And a return to lighter food with a focus on fresh ingredients.
Searching for something a little fancier than the traditional Easter ham, recipes for stuffed leg of lamb seemed appropriate, but none was exactly what I wanted. After a few tries over the years, I ended up with this dish. I like to prep it the night before so that the garlic can infuse the lamb, and then you only have to pop it in the oven the next day. The meat cooks low and slow, which makes it very tender. The garlicky greens and salty cheese balance the gaminess that sometimes exists in this cut of meat. I’ve added a handful of chopped sundried tomatoes to the stuffing at times, but I’ve come to prefer it without. You can also add some chopped artichokes if you want.
Although this recipe is slightly more time-intensive than you’ll usually find at EDA, for this depth of flavor, it’s worth the added effort.
Roast Leg of Lamb Stuffed with Feta and Greens
4-5 lb boneless leg of lamb, butterflied
4-5 cloves of garlic
10 oz of greens (spinach, dandelion, collards, turnip, kale, arugula)
3/4 cup of feta cheese
1/4 cup of parmesan cheese
1/2 cup of finely chopped shallots or onions
1/4 cup of fresh parsley, finely chopped
1/4 cup of fresh basil, finely chopped
1/4 cup of fresh mint, finely chopped
Juice of 1 lemon
Freshly ground black pepper
Olive oil (lemon or basil oil would work well, if available)
First make the stuffing. Saute the shallots or onions and 3 large cloves of minced garlic in a tablespoon or so of olive oil for about 3 minutes over medium low heat or until softened.
Then add the greens and saute until wilted, about another 3 minutes.
Transfer to a large bowl and let cool. When finished add in the herbs and cheeses. (Now you can add in the sundried tomatoes and/or artichokes if using.) Mix thoroughly. Add in the egg to hold everything together. If too wet, add more parm. If too dry, add in a little white wine or water.
Prep the lamb. [Mine was not de-boned. This added a new dimension to my skill set. I sliced through the middle, took out the leg leaving as little meat as possible butterflied it as best I could. Try not to cut through it all the way. Then you have to pound it down. Check out the video on the EDA FB site to see my struggles and for a few chuckles.]
Tie it if you can or use toothpicks to hold it together.
It should then sit for at least half an hour and ideally overnight in the frig wrapped in plastic wrap.
When ready to cook, preheat the oven to 325 degrees and roast on a rack for about 1.5 to 2 hours. The meat should reach 135 degrees for medium-rare (which is how I prefer it). [Use a digital probe inserted into the thickest part of the center of the meat if possible.] When it reaches the desired temperature, remove from the oven and let stand covered loosely with foil for 15-20 minutes.
Slice it thickly, and plate some greens on top of the meat if it falls apart (and it may). [NB: I didn’t make a sauce with this because there were few drippings, and the meat is well-seasoned anyway.]
Serve it with some minted pea puree if you want more greens, a lemon-herb spaetzle, creamy polenta, cauliflower puree or mashed potatoes (anything that leaves the oven free). You can make lamb sandwiches with any leftovers.
For dessert, especially if this is a big dinner party, I’m a huge fan of the Chocolate Banana Cream Pie from Bon Appetit – one recipe I feel no need to tweak unless you want to use a pre-made chocolate cookie crust. Warning: there is a fairly high degree of difficulty in executing this pie.
To drink: a Nero d’Avola would be lovely if you prefer a wine. Otherwise, the citrus from a simple gimlet nicely balances the garlic and enhances the spring feeling.