Slow-Roasted Leg of Lamb with Orange-Tapenade Aioli

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Prep Time: 50 minutes
Cook Time: 330 minutes
Servings: 7

After several hours of roasting and then braising in the oven, this lamb is so tender that when cut or shredded, it’s almost like a ragout sauce. One way to serve the meat is to shred it and add it to cooked fettuccine that has been lightly tossed with butter. This lamb is very forgiving: it is ready to eat straight from the oven, or it can be set aside for up to 1 hour, then rewarmed in a low oven.


For the orange-tapenade aioli:

  • 10 large garlic cloves
  • 1 egg, at room temperature
  • 1 Tbs. red wine vinegar
  • 1 tsp. Dijon mustard
  • 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
  • 3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup canola oil
  • 1 1/2 Tbs. fresh lemon juice
  • 1/4 tsp. freshly ground white pepper
  • Grated zest of 1 orange
  •   2 Tbs. olive tapenade
  • 1 boneless or bone-in leg of lamb, 5 1/2 to 7 lb., trimmed of excess fat and tied by the butcher if boneless
  • 2 garlic heads, 4 cloves slivered, the rest left whole
  • Olive oil as needed
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 2 tsp. dried thyme
  • 1 large yellow onion, coarsely chopped
  • 3 carrots, peeled and coarsely chopped
  • 3 celery stalks, coarsely chopped
  • 2 Tbs. tomato paste
  • 1 cup fruity red wine, such as Zinfandel
  • 1 cup reduced-sodium chicken broth
  • 1/3 cup red wine vinegar
  • 3 bay leaves


To make the orange-tapenade aioli, in a saucepan, combine the garlic with water to cover. Bring to a boil over high heat and boil for 30 seconds. Drain and let the garlic cool for 5 minutes. In a food processor, combine the garlic, egg, vinegar, mustard and salt and puree until smooth. With the motor running, slowly add the olive oil and canola oil, processing until incorporated. Add the lemon juice and white pepper and pulse to mix. Transfer the aioli to a bowl and stir in the orange zest and olive tapenade. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use.

Using a small, sharp knife, cut slits all over the lamb and poke garlic slivers into the slits. Let the lamb stand at room temperature for about 1 1/2 hours.

Preheat an oven to 450°F.

Rub the lamb all over with olive oil. Season generously with salt and black pepper and then rub with the thyme.

Place the leg, fat side down, in a large roasting pan and roast for 15 minutes. Add the whole garlic cloves, onion, carrots and celery to the pan. Turn the lamb over, making sure that some of the vegetables are underneath it, and roast for 15 minutes more. Reduce the oven temperature to 300°F, cover the pan tightly with aluminum foil and roast for 3 hours.

In a small bowl, stir together the tomato paste, wine, broth and vinegar. Uncover the pan, turn the lamb over and toss the bay leaves over the vegetables. Spoon about 1/2 cup of the wine mixture over the lamb. Continue to roast, uncovered, for 2 hours more, drizzling 1/2 cup of the wine mixture over the lamb every 20 to 30 minutes, until all the mixture is used. Turn the lamb over after 1 hour. The lamb is ready when it is very tender and almost falling apart (or falling off the bone if using a bone-in leg of lamb). Gently transfer the lamb to a warmed platter and cover loosely with aluminum foil.

Pour the pan juices and vegetables into a large fine-mesh sieve placed over a large measuring pitcher. Press down hard on the vegetables to extract all the juices. Discard the vegetables. Let the juices stand for 1 minute, then spoon off the fat. Warm the juices, if necessary.

Snip the strings from the lamb. Shred the lamb, discarding the bone if necessary. Serve immediately, drizzled with the pan juices. Serve 6 or 7.

A note from the butcher: Seek out a leg of lamb with the shank still attached. Ask the butcher to trim it off, then roast it separately with the garlic, onions and carrots and use it to flavor vegetable-barley soup. – James Cross, Marczyk Fine Foods, Denver, CO.

Adapted from Williams-Sonoma The Cook and The Butcher, by Brigit Binns (Weldon Owen, Inc., 2011).

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