I have an odd tendency to scour the meat aisle of any grocery store I’m in, every time I go. Even if it’s just for eggs…or carrots….or soap. The trip could be for anything, but the allure of that cold back wall always seems to reel me in for a checkup.
I do this for one reason.
I’m opportunistic and usually quite frugal, especially with my proteins/meats.
Meat prices and quality fluctuate so much that I try not to plan my big meat based meals much in advance, rather let savings and low prices dictate my menu and dietary desires. Since I crave seemingly everything all the time, it’s easy to see a low price and be attracted to that item. This meal was no different.
I was in my local grocery store looking for a few small items a few weeks back, doing my usual dance with the meat department when something caught my eye. Lamb is one of my favorite proteins and when its price drops below a certain threshold, something in me snaps and I have to buy it. HAVE TO.
Oh yes, she will be mine.
One small problem.
I had plans for dinners the rest of the week.
Thankfully, this sweet piece of meat was vacuum packed already, so freezing would be an easy remedy!
Weeks went by, and then this past weekend, the time seemed right to strike. With a piece of meat this large (3.8 lbs to be exact) I needed some minor planning and foresight. So, I pulled it out of the freezer two days ahead of time and put it in a bowl in my fridge to gradually thaw.
Next came pairings, and I was quite conflicted for longer than any reasonable person should have been. This is why deciding your shopping list and menu at the store should be frowned upon.
Graced with a lovely piece of meat, I wanted to make sure the sides I chose would make sweet music together with the lamb. Having been slightly greened out lately (we love our kale, spinach and stalky greens!), my thoughts were narrowed down to carrots, and my new favorite, parsnips!
Yes, I know.
They look similar, and even taste slightly similar. But preparation is key here, and with my anxiety building as I stood in the produce aisle as if frozen in time, I made the rash decision to just get both.
Why choose when you can just have a party instead!
Having just made (perfected in my eyes! #humblebrag #whyamiusinghashtagsallofasudden) parsnip fries not long ago (up coming blog post on these), I decided that a mashed approach was the way to go.
The carrots I grabbed we’re a lovely organic bunch that still had the shrubbery included. What can I say, I’m a sucker for inedible garnish sometimes. These, I decided, were going to go straight into the roasting pan with the lamb. I wanted meltingly tender, savory, fat roasted carrots. I wanted all those succulent lamb juices to flow into my carrots and become one with each other.
When it came down to seasoning, I decided to keep it simple, a few herbs, a little citrus, salt and pepper for the whole lot.
With important decisions made, it was time to see about making a meal out of all this. In the end, it was very successful in my eyes, with the surprise being how different the parsnips and carrots turned out to be, and how perfect they all seemed to compliment one another. This recipe is quite versatile though, and truly any combination of root vegetables could honestly play these supporting roles.
I hope you enjoy the feast!
- 1 3-4lb leg of lamb
- 1 lb of parsnips (3-4 large tubers)
- 1 bunch of organic carrots (stems and leafs intact)
- 1/2 whole lemon
- 2 Tbsp rosemary
- 2 Tbsp lemon thyme (love the brighter flavor compared to regular thyme)
- 4 Tbsp of olive oil
- 5-6 cloves of fresh garlic
- 2 Tbsp butter
- 1/2 cup of milk
- 3 tsp of kosher salt
- 3 tsp of fresh cracked black peppercorns
- First things first: With recipes that have varying cook times and processes, it’s important to plan a strategy for timing and priority so that it all comes together at once. Side dishes should be just as important and well thought out as the main event. If the meal is a symphony of tastes and textures and even temperatures, don’t let one weak entry sour the the whole experience. With everyone’s kitchen offering many variables, timing can be difficult. However, with practice and an awareness of little things (like: how long water takes to boil at your elevation, or how even the heating of your oven is), you should be able to dial in any recipe for every occasion! With that out of the way, lets begin. Pre-heat the oven to 325 degrees.
- Next item of business, prepare the leg of lamb for cooking. With a piece of flesh this large (and bone in, in my case) it’s key to have a fully thawed, room temperature hunk of meat. This will help ensure a properly, and equally cooked leg. Nobody wants to cut into a cold, under-done center. Clean any surface juices off of the lamb under cold running water, then pat dry with clean paper towels. If the leg is especially fatty, you may want to remove some of the excess, including that elastic stretchy silver membrane. Once cleaned and prepped, take a sharp knife and cut slits about one inch deep into the thickest parts of the flesh. In these holes, we are going to insert slices (or whole cloves if you desire) of garlic. This step is completely optional, but it’s something that I grew up with when my dad made pot roasts and it kind of stuck with me.
- Next step is to season the exterior of the leg. Rub the leg with 1 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil all over, then sprinkle with fresh cracked pepper, chopped rosemary & lemon thyme, and a healthy pinch of kosher salt. Now rub the seasonings into the leg real well, making sure all sides are well covered. (side note: I love the way herbs and zesty lemon play off one another, and this preparation is getting an added punch of bright, fresh lemon thyme. If you are able to find this in your local grocery store, its well worth picking up and inserting into everything from stocks, to stews, and anywhere else where traditional thyme is coveted. The flavor is such a perfect combination of its two namesakes, trust me, you will want to try it with everything.) Lightly oil a large roasting pan and spread the oil across the whole bottom with a clean paper towel. Place the leg of lamb fat side side up in the center of the pan.
- Next, prepare the carrots for roasting. Wash them thoroughly under cold running water, then peel them. Once peeled, toss the carrots in a similar seasoning blend as the lamb and some olive oil. Spread the carrots onto the bottom of the roasting pan surrounding the lamb.
- Cut a lemon in half and squeeze the juices over the carrots and lamb, then throw the squeezed half into the pan for roasting as well.
- Cover the whole thing loosely with aluminum foil and place in the oven for about 1 hour, depending on the size. If you have a corded thermometer, insert into the fleshiest part of the leg, making sure it is not in contact with the bone. Set the thermometer to go off when it reaches 145 degrees and place the lamb and carrots into the pre-heated oven to slow roast. Once the internal temperature reaches 145 degrees, crank the oven up to 500 degree and remove the aluminum foil. Roast uncovered 10-15 minutes or until the top fat gets brown, crispy and caramelized. To speed this process up even further and increase browning, switch the oven to broil once it reaches 500 degrees, and get some real good color on this primal hunk of meat! Perhaps the best part about this dish is how soft and sinful the sweet little carrots become after relaxing in a bath olive oil and lamb fat for an hour plus Mmmmm. I’m a little jealous actually.
- Once browned to your satisfaction, remove the lamb from oven and lightly cover with the old foil. THIS NEXT PART IS CRITICAL. You really want to let the meat rest for 10-15 minutes after retrieving it from the oven before cutting into it. This will help the muscles relax and allow all those wonderful juices to redistribute throughout the meat. Seriously, DO NOT cut into it right away (we’ve all done it “I have to see how lovely this thing is and taste it NOW”) , you will only leave yourself an expensive dry piece of meat. Nobody wants that for dinner. Moving on!
- Meanwhile, in parsnip land, you have some time to prep and cook the other side dish after you pop the lamb into the oven. You will want to start this process about 20 minutes before the lamb is finished in the oven. Similar to the carrots, wash the parsnips and peel the outer layer off. Once peeled, cut the tubers into 1 inch cubes. Put a large pot of water on the stove and fill enough to cover all of your cut parsnips. Bring water to boil and throw them suckers in. Boil until soft and a fork slides in and out with ease. Remove pot from heat and strain out the water, reserving about 1 or 2 tablespoons of the cooking liquid if you can. In a large bowl, mash the parsnips with the milk, butter and a pinch or two of kosher salt and pepper. Mash the soft parsnips with sturdy potato masher for a chunky texture or use a food processor or immersion blender for smooth parsnips.
- Once the lamb has rested untouched for 10-15 minutes, cut, plate, and enjoy.
- Bonus step: If you would like to create a lamb gravy for those velvety parsnips, simply collect the lamb juices from the roasting pan and pour into a small saucepan on medium. Make a roux with some flour until the fat and flour are well mixed, and bubbling slightly. Next pour in a small amount of water to thin it out and turn the burner down to low. Add as much flour or water in small intervals while stirring until the thickness you desire is achieved. Setting up my shots after cooking everything led to me neglecting my cooked gravy 😦 it overcooked and separated by the time I was ready to plate it. Such is life as a food blogger/photographer sometimes AMIRITE?..anyone? …anyways I hope you all enjoy this delicious roasted leg of lamb and its seemingly odd, but rather complimentary duel sides of fat roasted carrots and mashed parsnips!