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Roast Leg of Spring Lamb with Mint Sauce

Roast Leg of Spring Lamb with Mint Sauce
Spring lamb is milk-fed, coming from animals only three to five months old. The meat should be pale pink; anything darker is not true spring lamb and will lack its perfect tenderness and delicate flavor. Serve this dish when you want a glorious centerpiece for a celebration dinner, garnishing the sliced meat with sprigs of the season's abundant fresh mint.

Ingredients:

For the lamb:

  • 6 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 1 Tbs. chopped fresh mint
  • 1/2 tsp. chopped fresh rosemary
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • 1 leg of lamb, 5 to 6 lb., trimmed of excess fat
  • 2 Tbs. olive oil

For the mint sauce:

  • 2 cups lightly packed fresh mint leaves
  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 Tbs. white wine vinegar
  • 1 large garlic clove, minced
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • Fresh mint sprigs

Directions:

To prepare the lamb, in a small bowl, mix together the garlic, chopped mint, rosemary, salt and pepper. Using a sharp paring knife, make incisions 1 inch deep all over the meat and insert the garlic mixture into the slits. Rub the meat evenly with the olive oil.

Position a rack in the bottom of an oven and preheat to 450°F.

Place the lamb, fat side up, on a rack in a large roasting pan and season with salt and pepper. Roast the lamb for 30 minutes. Turn the lamb over and reduce the heat to 325°F. Continue to roast until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the leg, away from the bone, registers 130° to 135°F for medium-rare, or the meat is pink when cut into with a sharp knife, about 45 minutes more.

Meanwhile, make the mint sauce: Place the mint leaves, extra-virgin olive oil, vinegar and garlic in a blender or in a food processor fitted with the metal blade. Process on high speed until smooth. Transfer to a bowl and season with salt and pepper.

When the lamb is done, transfer it to a cutting board; reserve the juices in the pan. Cover the lamb loosely with aluminum foil and let rest for 10 minutes before carving. Using a large spoon, skim the fat from the pan juices and strain the juices through a fine-mesh sieve into the mint sauce. Stir well.

To serve, cut the lamb across the grain into thin slices. Arrange the slices on a warmed platter and garnish with mint sprigs. Pass the mint sauce at the table.
Serves 6 to 8.
Adapted from Williams-Sonoma Seasonal Celebration Series, Spring, by Joanne Weir (Time-Life Books, 1997).