I’m pretty sure it’s illegal in at least seven different countries to have a homemade dinner, mid-workweek, that is as good as the dinner my family and I had last night. Our just-on-a-whim, mid-week leg of lamb simply blew us away. It went beyond good, tasty, great, and delicious and entered the realm of sublime in taste, texture and level of pure satisfaction. It elicited so many moans and groans of pleasure around our table, I thought I should rename it “Get a Room Leg of Lamb.” I was glad we weren’t eating it in public, at the Fridrik V, the restaurant that created the original: “Slow-Cooked Leg of Lamb with Broth,” which I found online, translated (complete with confusing organization and word choice) from Icelandic. But, despite struggling to figure out the steps over the five-hour cooking time, I would do it again tomorrow, in a heartbeat. As Brian exclaimed, “I’ve never had anything like this!” Or, as I said, “This recipe makes me want to go to Iceland!”
Here is the recipe (which I have altered a bit to suit my cooking style, my delicious mistakes and my general interpretation of the unclear parts of the original recipe).
Slow-Cooked Leg of Lamb with Broth
(Total cook time is about 5 hours, but I recommend cooking the broth several days ahead to get a richer stock.)
1 leg of lamb, bone in (from 100% grass fed lamb)
3-4 cloves garlic
2 large tomatoes (or two cups plain, home canned tomato sauce, which is what I used)
1 bay leaf
2 twigs of thyme
salt and pepper
10 strands rosemary
2 twigs of thyme
2 twigs of tarragon
2 quarts to a gallon of filtered, cold water (approximate—this is more than the original recipe)
1 cup soft, pastured butter (original recipe called for ½ cup, but I used a cup because I had so much more broth)
2 tbsp lemon zest
1/40th tsp pure powdered stevia (the original recipe called for honey, but we aren’t using sugars so I made this substitution)
Prepare the leg of lamb one or two days ahead: Trim away excess fat and remove the pelvic bone and the shank. (I’m no expert on how to do this, but you can find videos of how to do this online. Or, you can have your butcher do it, as long as they also give you the bone!)
Make the broth one or two days ahead: (The original recipe calls for doing this while the leg of lamb cooks. I did it this way the first time, but recommend making the broth ahead of time because it allows you to get a richer broth and to have more control over meat cooking time!) Coarsely chop onion, carrot, and garlic. In a mid-sized stock pot, with an oven-safe lid, heat olive oil (enough to thinly coat the bottom of the pan) and then lightly brown the vegetables and bones. Add tomatoes, bay leaf and thyme. Place in a 170 degree oven for 90 minutes. Remove from oven and add water to cover the bone. (This took several quarts for me.) When the broth begins to boil, remove excess fat from the surface. (The grass-fed lamb we get from our farmer really doesn’t have as much excess fat as store-bought lamb, so I skip the skimming.) Reduce heat and simmer for at least an hour. (See Cook’s Note!) Pour broth through a fine sieve to remove all chunks. (I poured into a large pyrex bowl.) Discard the chunks. Store the broth until you are ready to cook the lamb. When you are ready to cook the lamb, heat your broth on the stove top and reduce to about one and a half to two quarts. Turn down the heat and keep warm until you reach the basting step.
To cook the lamb:
Preheat oven to 170 degrees. Place leg of lamb in a roasting dish that is fitted with a wire rack (so it can drip without sitting in the drippings). It is most convenient if the roaster also has a lid, but (for now) keep the lid off! (See Cook’s Note!) Cook for 90 minutes and then remove from the oven to rest for five minutes. After five minutes, sprinkle the meat (fairly generously) with real sea salt (like Redmond or Celtic sea salt) and pepper. Then, rub the meat with finely chopped fresh rosemary, thyme and tarragon. Return the meat to the 170 degree oven for 45 minutes. After 45 minutes, baste the leg of lamb with a ladle or two full of warm broth. Baste every 10 minutes for the next 50 minutes, using all the broth. After you have added all the broth, increase the oven temperature to 350 degrees. Cook at this temperature for 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and put the lid on the roasting dish. Allow to sit for 20 minutes.
To finish the dish: Place leg of lamb (without the juices) on a serving dish. Pour the broth and juices through a sieve. Collect the juice for use, and make sure to scrape the roasting dish clean and collect and keep all the solids in the sieve. (Don’t throw any of it out!) Place the broth in a stock pot (or if you have it, return it to the stovetop safe roaster) and bring to a boil. Meanwhile, place the contents of the sieve in a blender with the softened butter, fresh lemon zest, and stevia. Blend until smooth. When the stock begins to bubble, turn off heat and whisk in the butter and herb mixture. Salt and pepper to taste. (And try not to eat the whole pan of gravy when you sample it!)
To serve: Serve the lamb semi-submerged in the broth. (You may have more broth than your serving tray can handle, in which case, you may need a gravy boat!)
A note about the broth in this recipe: I like to cook broth for 24 to 48 hours to really pull out the flavor and health benefits of the bone, which is what I plan to do with this recipe next time I try it. So, instead of cooking it stove top for one hour, I will cover it and put it in my oven on the slow cook setting (about 200 degrees) for a day or two. This will require me to use more water. I’m guessing I will use about one gallon. But, I recommend that you try this as well, instead of settling for a one-hour broth!
A note about cookware: I was fortunate enough years ago to find a gorgeous stainless steel roasting pan on sale. What I like about my pan is that both the roaster and the lid can be used as separate pans on the stovetop. It also comes with a wire rack insert. If you don’t have such a roaster, you can still make this dish. To roast the meat, simply balance a rack over any kind of baking pan, or just trim the excess fat really well and skip the rack step. Then, when you are ready for the basting stage, transfer the meat to a casserole dish that can be fitted with a lid (when necessary) or use foil as a lid.
A note about all that butter: Just go for it! And, don’t feel guilty eating it! I weighed myself the day after eating this recipe and I was down by half a pound! It’s all in the controlled carbohydrate approach to life. Keep the carbs to a minimum (I stay below 20 grams a day) and enjoy vitamin rich butter from cows that have truly been raised on pasture! If you can’t eat butter, but can use Ghee, I think it would work superbly in this recipe!
A note about pictures and our kitchen remodel: I had trouble getting a great picture, in part because we still have no light in our kitchen–or at least the dining area of our kitchen. Our remodel is progressing, but we’ve had so much company lately it’s going slowly. Thankfully, Brian has some time off this month to work on it!