Ras El Hanout Crusted Leg of Lamb

This years Passover meal was not only a huge success but it was also completely overhauled. Recently I read an article by Jeffrey Yoskowitz (co author of The Gefilte Manifesto) titled Don’t Make Passover Too Easy. Not only was this a fantastic read but the overarching sentiment is to embrace the traditions and foods of Passovers in the past rather than looking for ways to eat what you normally would through the plethora of “kosher for Passover” products that are available to so many of us today; and that is exactly what I did. 

Those you follow my blog or just know me well know I love to take food to the next level. Doing a big spread or using ingredients that are hard to find is common place. I love experimenting and I love making a dish my own but to do it successfully I have to root it in something familiar or known. If I could have made anything I wanted this Passover I don’t know what I would have made and I don’t think it would have turned out so well. Being faced with overwhelming number of choices can cloud creativity. However, when working with a narrowed set of perimeters ideas spark and ignite.

For the main course of my passover dinner the idea is/was simple: Leg of lamb with Farfel Kugel. The version I grew up with was putting the lamb on a barbecue, letting it slowly roast over a fire. The kugel was a mix of veggies and a heap of farfel bound together with eggs, baked either in muffin tins or a pan. I like to call this “Jewish Stuffing” as it closely resembled what we all know of as the Thanksgiving flavor profile: Carrot, celery, mushroom, garlic, and onion. There was nothing wrong with this version it was just underwhelming to of for such a special occasion dinner.

Two years ago when I did my first riff on our family classic I did a pomegranate-walnut marinade (out of The New Persian Kitchen) for the lamb, roasting it in the oven. I stuck to my mom’s kugel recipe but after baking it I let it cool, cut it into my desired size pieces, brushed it with lamb gravy and pan seared it to reheat it. I then fanned out the lamb pieces on the kugel. It was nice and I felt it headed in the right direction but I felt it still needed something more… WOW!

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When thinking about it for this years dinner I cracked open many cookbooks, went to the index and looked up lamb. I wanted to see what flavors, spices, marinades, and techniques cooks were doing. That’s when I came across 12 hour Lamb Shoulder with Ras El Hanout in Dandelion and Quince. The idea of doing a Moroccan spice rub, dry brining, and a long slow roast piqued my interest.

The Recipe

Servings: 18 (4 ounce servings)

FOR THE LAMB:

  • 5 1/5 pound Leg of Lamb, boneless and butterflied
  • 2 tablespoons Corse Salt
  • 2 fl ounces Olive Oil
  • ½ cup Ras El Hanout
  • 3 Medium Carrots, halved and cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 Red Onion, topped, tailed, and quartered
  • 1 Fennel Bulb, stalks removed, trimmed, and cut into 8 pieces
  • 1 Head of Garlic, peeled and smashed
  • 1 Preserved Lemon, quartered
  • 16 fl ounces Water

FOR THE RAS EL HANOUT:

  • 20 grams Cinnamon Sticks
  • 20 grams Cumin Seeds
  • 8 grams Rose Buds
  • 10 grams Black Peppercorns
  • 10 grams Allspice Berries
  • 10 grams Whole Cloves
  • 6 grams Dried Thyme

Directions:

Begin with making the spice blend. Add all the spices to a spice grinder and pulse until it is a fine powder. If as your adding the spiced your ginger is getting too full, pulse the spices to help condense to allow everything to fit and be able to mix together.

Trim the leg of lamb of any thick pieces of fat and pat dry with paper towels. Place the lamb on a  large patter, roasting pan, or bowl. Drizzle the oil over the leg and work it into every nook and cranny turning to ensure a even coating of oil. Sprinkle with half the salt and massage it into the flesh. Turn the leg over and repeat. Dust each side of the lamb with the spice blend and rub it all over to ensure all the meat is well covered.

In a large bowl, roasting pan, or other vessel that you can cover and fit in your refrigerator, add all the vegetables. Place the spice rubbed lamb on top and cover. Refrigerate overnight. The day you’re going to cook it remove it from the fridge 2 hours before to let it come up to room temperature before cooking.

Preheat the oven to 425ºF. In your roasting pan add all the vegetables, pour in the water, lay the lamb fat cap down, and tightly cover with foil.

Roast the lamb for 20 minutes. Remove from the oven, lower the temperature to 275ºF, if your are wanting to use a probe thermometer this would be the time to stick it into the thickest past of the lamb, and return the lamb to the oven.

Roast for about 1 ½ hours or until your thermometer reads 145ºF. Carefully, remove the pan from the oven (I burnt myself on the cord to the thermometer this year) and let it rest for at least 30 minutes.

I prefer to let the lamb cool way down. I do this early in the day. I can then carve it up into the size portions I want. Then to reheat it I place it on the solid sheet tray of my toaster oven with the kugel. I place it in with the toaster oven cold. I set it to BAKE at 350ºF and the time to 5 minutes. The time it takes to preheat and cook is perfect for enjoying the amuse bouche course.

(You can either discard the veggies and liquid or you can put the roasting pan on the oven after removing the lamb and reduce the liquid till nearly gone. Then remove the carrots, onion, and fennel to make a nice veggie side for either this dinner or another meal. With a slotted spoon remove and discard the lemon and garlic. Then pour the remaining juices over the cooked veggies.)

Ras El Hanout Crusted Leg of Lamb

Continue to Tzibbele Kugel to learn about how my trio came to be.

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