|Source of image:http://ypseni.wordpress.com/2011/04/23/christ-is-risen-χριστός-ανέστη-христос-воскресе/|
But what do you do if you do not have a souvla (large spit) or a large family to share an entire lamb? Of course, the answer is that you buy the leg of lamb. Shoulder would be fine, too, but typically, it is the leg. That's one part of the equation. Not having a souvla is the other part. What do you do?
Well, you could put the leg of lamb on the barbecue grill and grill it. That would still take a couple of hours, and a lot of propane or charcoal. You could forget the lamb, but then, it wouldn't feel like a Pascha celebration. Or, you could go the easy route and put the lamb in the oven.
Our lamb leg went in the oven. We were going to have just a small gathering of people, so we wanted to have a small amount of lamb. It is not hard to find lamb in the grocery stores right now, in fact, there is so much available, that we thought about waiting until next week to buy some because it will be less expensive after our Pascha. But, not everyone has a pan to fit an entire leg of lamb.
We are blessed to have a Greek butcher. He's wonderful, and he understands that not everyone can buy the entire animal. So, we bought half. We really went for just a leg, but the half a lamb was so enticing, we had to have it. Here is what half a lamb looks like:
We decided that we wanted to share the most common, typical way of preparing leg of lamb for the oven. We went to a church that used to hold a community "Agape Meal" (the meal eaten to break the fast for Pascha, and this is exactly how thy did it, even though they were feeding a hundred or two hundred people.) This must be a good recipe or method if that many people returned for the Agape Meal every year.
Here is what you need to make a leg of lamb:
1 lamb leg
1 head garlic, peeled, cleaned
salt, pepper to taste
oregano, preferably on the stem
red wine (amounts vary)
First, wash the lamb with cold water to remove any residue that the butcher left on it. Then, set it into a baking pan/roasting pan -- wherever it fits. Our butcher broke the leg (really, he cut through the bone) for us to make sure that it fit in the oven. At home, we would not have the tools to cut through that large of a bone. You can ask the butcher to cut the bone for you, but be careful... some butchers will keep that end piece and charge you for it. then, they re-sell it for a bit of money. It is useful to make a little stock and/or gravy, or to boil it and use that liquid to cook manestra... ok, that's another day. For today, just put the entire leg and bones in the pan.
Then, make sure all the garlic is cleaned of skin, remove that brown nub at the top of each clove, and then make sure there are no spots on the cloves of garlic.
Next, we cut each clove in half, so it became a really big sliver. Sliver implies small and thin, but when you just cut the garlic clove in half lengthwise, you will end up with a generous sliver. A generous sliver is good! This also made the garlic cloves more uniform in size.
Now, it is time to put the garlic into the leg of lamb. You can put as much as you like or as little as you like. We are going to put them inside the leg of lamb. Here is how...
Start by poking the tip of a knife into the leg of lamb. The tip should be inserted about 1/2 inch deep into the meat. To do this, insert the tip and push in to the meat, then while the knife is still inserted into the meat, turn the knife around in a circle to create a hole.
We used red wine as a flavouring or seasoning on the lamb. This was a deep Cabernet Sauvignon, but we would use whatever wine we are drinking at the time. Pour the wine all over the lamb leg. It will sink into and through those garlic holes, too! Pour enough wine to cover the lamb and have about 1/4 inch in the bottom of the pan.
After pouring the wine, add the pepper and salt to the lamb. Use them both all over the skin, and be generous. The fat of the lamb melts and the salt and pepper go with it into the bottom of the pan, so you have to be a little generous to create that nice, somewhat crusty skin that many Greeks pick at all through a meal.
And, here is the fun part. For many days, we have discussed the beauty of using Greek oregano -- the kind on the stem that is more flavourful than 10 of the little containers from the grocery stores. We have made note about placing the full stem of oregano in a food to allow it to incorporate more flavour into the food that comes from the stem... well, guess what we added to the lamb? Yes, add the Greek Oregano -- full stems and leaves! Drop the whole stem in there, don't be shy with this seasoning.
Next, make sure you have about 1/2 inch of liquid in the bottom of the pan. You can just add water to the pan. That's what we did. We added about a cup of water to the bottom of the pan, there with the wine, and that liquid generated a nice amount of very tasty "ζουμό" (au jus) after cooking.
So, after you have cooked it for a while, check the juices that come out of the lamb. If the juices are clear or light in hue, the lamb is done. If you see red, then let the lamb cook longer. Or, if you are using a thermometer, you should reach an internal temperature of 150-160° F. Then, let the lamb leg rest for about 15 minutes.
Look what you get -- a beautiful roasted leg of lamb that is calling your name..