A few years ago, I invited my good friend, Craig Rogers from Borders Springs Farm, to the NYC Test Kitchen to share his story about leaving academia to become a shepherd and raise lamb the way Thomas Jefferson did in the 16th and 17th centuries. It was a fascinating evening as my food storyteller friends and I gathered around the table to listen to Craig talks about being a heritage shepherd in modern day. Ever since, I have become quite smitten with the unique and delicious flavor of lamb, particularly Craig's lamb and its sweet tasting fat.
This recipe celebrates several things I love about lamb. It's simple in technique and ingredients, but big and bright in flavor thanks to the lamb and the blend of fresh, biting greens and herbs slathered all over before and after roasting. The secret is a hot 12" Lodge cast iron skillet that caramelizes and melds that fat and the meat together with the herbs and garlic to create a showstopper for the table. Make a double batch of the Greens Slather to put on the table for guests to spoon generously over the meat - save some for the next day and stir into pasta or on a lamb sandwich.
For the Lamb
- 1 6-lb. semi-boneless leg of lamb, room temperature*
- 3 tablespoons Kosher salt
- 2 tablespoons coarsely ground black pepper
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
*Bring the lamb to room temperature by placing it (packaging still on) on a large plate and sitting on the kitchen counter for at least an hour before roasting.
For the Greens Slather
- 1 cup arugula, chopped into 1-inch pieces
- 1 cup fresh cilantro, chopped into 1-inch pieces
- 1 cup fresh parsley, chopped into 1-inch pieces
- ½ cup fresh mint leaves
- 6-7 whole garlic cloves, peeled
- ⅔ cup extra virgin olive oil
- Juice of ½ lemon
- ¾ teaspoon Kosher salt
- Freshly cracked black pepper to taste
Place the rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 350°F.
Remove the plastic wrapping and place the lamb on a large cutting board. Using a sharp chef's knife, score the fat side of the lamb every 1"-1½" about ¼" deep – just enough to cut through the fat and into the meat. Run the knife in the opposite direction to create a cross-hatch scoring pattern.
Scatter the salt and pepper on both sides of the lamb. Let rest while making the greens slather.
Add the greens, garlic, olive oil and lemon juice to a food processor fitted with a metal blade. Turn it on and blend 30-45 seconds until it comes together and forms a smooth yellow-green sauce. Scrape the sides of the processor with a rubber spatula. Add the salt and pepper. Turn the processor back on for another 15 seconds. Transfer to a bowl and set aside.
Heat a 12" cast iron skillet on medium-high for 2-3 minutes to get it hot. Add the 2 tablespoons of olive oil and roll around in the pan to cover the bottom of the skillet.
Using large tongs, place the lamb fat side up in the hot skillet. Slather a third of the greens sauce (about 1/3 cup) over the top and let the bottom sear 4-5 minutes. Flip the roast over, slather with another third of the greens sauce, and let the fat side caramelize 4-5 minutes and become infused with the herbs and garlic. Flip the roast over again, fat side up, and slather on the remaining greens sauce. Pour the water in the bottom of the skillet. Carefully place in the oven.
Roast for 1 hour 45 minutes to 2 hours, or until internal temperature hits 140°F on a meat thermometer. Baste with a large spoon every 15 minutes with the pan juices.
Remove the roast from oven and allow to rest 10-15 minutes on a cutting board.
Using a sharp carving knife, slice very thinly (less than 1/8"). Transfer to a platter or back into the cast iron skillet. Spoon additional greens slather on top if using a double recipe and serve with a bowl of greens sauce on the side.