p Picks and Pecks: recipe: roast lamb with juniper berries

Sunday, March 3, 2013

recipe: roast lamb with juniper berries

When I was invited for a Christmas potluck dinner, it seemed obvious that I should make a roast - it would feed at least 12 people, and would be easily portable. But what type of meat? The host had already ordered a turkey, and beef and chicken were ruled out because not all the guests would be able to eat it.

Lamb, then. A whole roasted leg of lamb... scratch that. Make it two! So that there would be plenty of lamb for sandwiches the day after. But what would go with it? A quick scan of online recipes turned up the following common ingredients:

  • garlic
  • juniper
  • rosemary
  • wine
  • peppercorns

I started prepping the lamb the day before - it was frozen and needed to be defrosted in the fridge for about half a day, so I started it at night.

When morning rolled around, preparation began in earnest. For the marinade, I smashed about four garlic cloves and peeled the skins off. I bruised the pips together with  springs of thyme with a pestle. Four tablespoons of juniper berries and three (four?) tablespoons peppercorns were crushed in the mortar and pestle to crack the skins. Maybe it is easier to remember everything in multiples of four!

After scoring the fat of the lamb in a cross-hatch pattern, I added all the marinade ingredients together with some salt and rubbed it into the meat. Pouring an entire bottle of red wine over the meat covered it totally and completed the marinade, which should only have taken about half an hour.

Over the next six hours, I turned the lamb in the marinade, making sure all sides of the meat touched the wine marinade. 

Once I lifted the meat from the marinade, the lamb had changed to a dark winy-red color. Brushing away as much of the garlic, juniper and thyme that I could, I fit both legs into an oven-proof dish and roasted the legs at 230F for 15 minutes, and then turned the oven down to 170F for another 30 minutes, taking the temperature of the lamb with a meat thermometer, stopping when the internal temperature reached 120F.

The result? Rosy-red, rare lamb!