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How To Roast A Leg Of Lamb

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Chef John Kowalski of The Culinary Institute of America demonstrates that it's really fairly simple to season, tie, and roast a leg of lamb. He begins by seasoning the meat with a combination of salt and pepper, then spreads on a thin layer of rosemary pesto (a mixture of fresh rosemary, garlic, and olive oil). He rolls up the roast like a jelly roll, then ties it up, using a series of slipknots along the length of the roast. To finish, he brings the butcher's twine back along the roast lengthwise, making one final tie on top.

He sets the roast onto the rack of a roasting pan and roasts it in a 350F oven for about 1 1/2 hours, or until the internal temperature is between 135-140F. To serve, slice the roast thinly.

For 60 years, The Culinary Institute of America has been setting the standard for excellence in professional culinary education. In this video series, experienced chefs and educators show you how to tackle essential cooking techniques.

Video Transcript

Hi, I'm Chef Kowalski from the Culinary Institute of America, and I'm going to show you this kitchen basic: how to tie, season and roast a leg of lamb.

Here you have a leg of lamb which has been totally boned out, and we have some salt and pepper, and we also have some rosemary pesto that we've made (with rosemary, pine nuts, garlic, a little bit of salt and pepper, and olive oil). We'll begin with a little salt and pepper, seasoning the inside so we have our flavors coming through: the salt and then the pepper, and then we'll do the pesto. Just mix your pesto up a little so you don't have all that oil on the top, and we'll very nicely dab small amounts, pressing it onto the lamb. This will give you a lot of really nice flavors; this is great whether you have this for Eastertime, or just for a nice gathering like Sunday dinner.

At this point what we're going to do is roll this meat up. We'll begin to roll it like a little jelly roll, trying to tuck the odds-and-ends pieces inside, so we totally encase the pesto - and now we're going to tie it. Take the short end of the string to the outside, bring it back, loop it around, go underneath and up through the other loop - basically forming a slip knot, which we tighten. Whether you do this, or tie it any other way, doesn't matter, as long as it's uniformly tied. Now we'll just pull the back part to snug it a little bit, bring up the front - and we'll try to space it as evenly as we can. Sometimes it'll be a little difficult, as some pieces are wider than others; but try to get it as uniform as you can. So we have this one end that we've tied, and now we're using the remainder of the string, making loops with this one long string around the lamb so we can tighten it. Then we'll cut a piece about one and a half times longer than the product itself so we can turn this roast to the other side and (the opposite of where we ran this string down the other side) we'll now go past the string under and back, so that it secures the string and keeps it uniformly spaced. We have the flap or meat at the end here that we're going to tuck under, and we'll turn it back over again - and when we come back to the beginning where we started, we're now going to finish by tying the two pieces of string together, and securing it in place. We take the ends and trim them - and there you have your leg of lamb.

We have a roasting pan here that we're going to pick up onto the cutting board, and we'll place our meat onto the roasting rack. We'll try to place it so the fat is on the top so that as it's melting, the roast is basting itself as it's cooking. Now we'll put it in the oven and cook it at about 350 degrees, for roughly an hour and a half or so, taking it to an internal temperature of 135 to 140.

As you see, the roast has cooked to about 135 or 140 degrees. You can see how nice and moist it looks, with juice everywhere. We have to take these strings off before we can begin to slice. You can just go along and cut all the pieces of string. You see the pesto has changed a little color - at the outside especially, because you have more heat at the ends than in the center. For slicing, we'll need a slicing knife and a fork so we can hold onto it. Just put your fork a little bit into the meat so you can hold it, make some resistance so the meat will stay together, and we then slice this very nice and easy - not putting too much pressure on the knife, just a little bit. Notice those juices coming out of there; you have a good color in here, and you can see the pesto on the inside here. Take a couple of nice thin slices - now you can enjoy this great roast leg of lamb.