Arranged on a platter and garnished with fresh herbs, this spring classic makes a stunning centerpiece.
Despite its beauty, I have a few bones to pick with bone-in leg of lamb: It may look easy enough to carve, but hidden bones at odd angles are waiting to parry the knife of an unskilled carver. It's also difficult to season. You can massage it with a handful of herbs or a bold spice rub, but those flavorings are only surface deep. And as with most bone-in roasts, it's tricky to cook: Roasted to perfection on the surface often means underdone at the bone.
There is a solution, however. Buy a boned and butterflied leg of lamb, which is as easy to slice as a steak. And with its wide (and two-sided) surface area, seasoning is a breeze. Because a butterflied leg of lamb is more or less an even thickness, it's easier to cook. Sear it on both sides under the broiler, then slow-roast it during the social hour. Prepared this way, the lamb is crusty, flavorful and evenly cooked.
Make sure the butcher removes the "fell," a thin, rubbery membrane that covers the layer of fat on the lamb and acts like a girdle during cooking. If it's not removed, the butterflied leg tightens and bows during roasting. It's better also to remove most, but not all, of the surface fat. Lamb needs thin patches of fat for lubrication and flavor.
Pair your lamb roast with a delicious potato gratin and broiled asparagus. And end the meal with a simple meringue cake. The meringue layers literally bake as you sleep the night before. A few hours before serving, just smear on whipped cream (or non-dairy topping for Passover) and sprinkle with raspberries.
What green vegetable to pair with this spring dinner? Easy Broiled Asparagus
Asparagus is a natural, and it has the added benefit of being in season.
One of my favorite ways to serve this elegant vegetable is to either broil or grill the spears. This brief, super-hot cooking means no flavor is lost. Figure on one average bunch (about 1 pound) serving four people.
Toss the asparagus with a little olive oil, salt and pepper. Arrange in a single layer on a lipped cookie sheet. Broil until tender but still bright green with a few spotty brown patches (test for doneness with a tip of a sharp knife). Arrange on a platter, and serve at room temperature with lemon wedges.
Copyright 2004 USA Weekend and columnist Pam Anderson. All rights reserved.