I like to live in the superlative. I get inappropriately effusive about little things, like how amazingly awesome my new soap smells. My stepdad likes to joke that all the women in my family (who all have this gene) are the most incontinent women he has ever met because we frequently use the phrase “Ohmygosh, I was SO EXCITED I almost wet my pants” about things like a new tapas restaurant, a Harry Potter premiere, or a really good sale on champagne (especiallythat).
Provencal Roasted Lamb
A little too dramatic? Probably. But we just want to be clear about how excited we are, and threatening bladder incontinence seems to do the trick.
When it comes to food, I like to live in the super-superlative. I frequently say things like “the best I’ve ever had,” or “so good it will make a grown man cry,” or “unbelievably, fantastically delicious.” These are all ways to tell you, in more subdued terms, that “this is really good, and I suggest you make it sometime.”
Gosh, that’s so vanilla. I prefer mocha-toffee-death-by-chocolate. It’s more unbelievably, fantastically delicious-sounding.
Lest you think I’m just a drama queen and bestow undue praise on the food I make, consider this: I only blog about 25% of what I make. Here’s the breakdown: 50% of the stuff I make isn’t deemed “make again,” and the recipe gets tossed, never to be made again. 25% of the stuff is good, but needs tweaking to be great, so it gets tabled for a while till I can figure out what it needs to give it that je ne sais quoi.
Then there’s the 25% that makes it to the hallowed e-grounds of the Food Hound. These dishes are, as Viper puts it in Top Gun, the “best of the best.” To me, at least. But I’m judge, jury and executioner here at Food Hound, Inc., so I guess that’s what matters!! Muahaha!!
But then I made Provencal Roasted Lamb and I decided I needed a new category. A “best of the best of the best.” A “so good it will make five grown men cry.” A “Babe Ruth of dinners” (for the Sports Hounds). An “unequivocally, unbelievably, fantastically delicious.”
For those who need something more vanilla, try this on for size: this might be the best meal I’ve ever made. It’s definitely the best meat I’ve ever made.
Loquaciousness aside, this lamb is phenomenal for so many reasons. First, my favorite butchers at Earth Fare hooked me up with an incredible leg of lamb. Perfectly tender, perfect lamb flavor. Really, an impeccable cut of meat. And I’m pretty sure it was grass-fed, which makes me and my arteries smile.
Next comes the thick blanket of mustard, rosemary, balsamic vinegar, garlic and salt that I spread all over the leg. When you get those ingredients together, you know you’re playing to win.
Then comes the rich mixture of tomatoes, shallots, olive oil, honey, and fresh herbs that you spread around the base of the leg in the pan. What happens to this mixture in the oven is nothing short of miraculous– the flavors condense, and you’re left with is a thick, rich, sweet-savory, jam-like concoction you spoon over the roasted lamb. The roasted lamb ends up with a rich mustard crust that kind of crunches when you slice through it. No need to fight over who gets the crusty outer pieces of lamb- the leg is round and therefore provides countless opportunities for lusty, crusty lamb love.
The added beauty of this dish is that the preparation is easy enough for a weeknight, provided you either (a) get home early enough or (b) enjoy eating late enough to allow for the nearly 2 hours of cooking and resting time. Truth be told, it’s probably better for a weekend because it’s so good, you’ll find yourself in a lamb coma. That’s the best kind of coma in my opinion, though followed in hot pursuit by a chocolate coma.
I wish I could say I came up with some fabulous way to use up the leftovers, but I just sliced up the rest of the leg and dumped it all in a freezer bag with the rest of the jammy tomato confit. It was too good to try to make into something else, and I sealed the bag with a kiss and drew little hearts on it to remind myself how much I loved it.
Oh, the day I defrost it will be a good day, indeed. An unequivocally, unbelievably, fantastically delicious day.
Easy Provencal Roasted Lamb
Adapted from Barefoot Contesssa
1 6- to 7-pound bone-in leg of lamb (I bought a 9-pound one. I don’t mess around)
1/2 c Dijon mustard
3 T chopped garlic (9 cloves), divided
1 T chopped fresh rosemary leaves
1 T balsamic vinegar
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 28-oz cans diced tomatoes, drained (original recipe calls for 3 lbs diced fresh tomatoes- canned worked GREAT and was sooo much easier- I recommend fire-roasted)
1/2 c good olive oil
1/2 c good honey, divided
3 shallots, sliced (original recipe called for 1 onion, sliced– I had shallots on hand to use up)
4 sprigs fresh thyme
2 sprigs fresh rosemary
1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees F.
2. Place the leg of lamb in a large roasting pan fat side up and pat it dry with paper towels. Combine the mustard, 1 T of garlic, chopped rosemary, balsamic vinegar, 1 tsp salt and 1/2 tsp pepper in a mini food processor and pulse until the garlic and rosemary are minced. Spread the mixture on lamb.
3. Place the drained tomatoes, olive oil, 1/4 c of honey, shallots (or onion), the remaining 2 T garlic, 1 tsp salt, and 2 tsp pepper in a bowl and toss well. Pour the tomato mixture around the lamb and tuck in the thyme and rosemary sprigs. Drizzle the lamb with the remaining 1/4 c honey.
4. Roast for 20 minutes. Turn heat down to 350 degrees and roast for another 1 to 1 1/4 hours**, until a meat thermometer registers 130-135 degrees F for medium-rare. Place the lamb on a cutting board, cover with foil, and allow to rest for 15 minutes. Discard the herb stems and return the tomatoes to the oven to keep warm. Slice the lamb, arrange on a platter, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and serve with the tomatoes and pan juice spooned on top.
**Since I had a 9-lb leg of lamb, I increased the cooking time to 1 hr 40 mins and it turned out great. I wasn’t able to use a meat thermometer b/c the Booze Hound had submerged ours in water overnight the night before and it no longer functioned. I tell ya, the things I put up with around here… 🙂