04/01/2014 04:27 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Family Seder Recipe: Leg of Lamb With Rosemary and Garlic from The Real Food Cookbook

I like that the culinary centerpiece -- the sacrificial lamb -- of the Seder meal matches the season. Many cooks serve brisket, but I prefer the symbolism of lamb, and I never promised you a traditional Seder. We always have a green salad at this meal, although it's not terribly traditional either, just to keep things light. The Seder plate is all about spring greens, so why not eat some?

Leg of Lamb with Rosemary and Garlic

Serves 8-10

5-6 lb leg of lamb
salt and pepper
olive oil
1 onion
2 cloves garlic
1 c red wine
2 c demi-glace (recipe below)

Set the oven to 350 degrees F.

Rinse the lamb, pat it dry, and season all over.

In a large heavy pot, heat the olive oil and brown the lamb on as many sides as you can. Don't turn it until it colors. Take it off the heat.

Dice the onion, smash the garlic, and chop the herbs. Mash it all up with olive oil and plenty of salt and pepper on a cutting board to make a rough paste. With a sharp knife, cut narrow slits in the lamb and jam the herb mixture in. Make some cuts right to the bone, but choose corners and edges; don't put holes right in the prime parts of the meat.

Roast the lamb for about 45 minutes, checking it after 30 minutes; grass-fed lamb will cook quickly. We like it medium-rare and tend to eyeball it, but if you prefer a thermometer, make it 120°F in two spots near the bone. Take the lamb out of the pan and keep the drippings. Spoon away any extra fat.

Pour the wine in the roasting pan with the drippings and reduce it by half on the stove.

Add the demi-glace and simmer.

The gravy is ready when the taste of wine is gone. Strain it, skim the fat, and season.

Set the lamb on a spike for carving and pass a bowl of gravy.


Demi-glace is a traditional French sauce made by combining reduced veal stock with a complex sauce called espagnole which I have never made. The real thing is very good, representing as it does the essence of beef, plus all the flavors (vegetal, herbal) in the recipe, and a generous spoonful or two makes all the difference in pot roast, brisket, and stews. But what a lot of work.

There are good options short of the full French method. You can buy good demi-glace. You can make a simple reduced beef stock. It won't have the complexity of demi-glace, but it will taste of beef and deliver the unctuous texture.

Poor Man's Demi-Glace

The title is mine. For a simple reduced beef stock, roast marrow and knuckle bones at 350 degrees F until they're golden brown and crispy. Cover them with cold water and aromatics, simmer for at least 3 hours, and strain the broth. Repeat two more times with the same bones and fresh water and aromatics. Combine the broths and reduce to just a few cups.

Almost-Classic Demi-Glace

4-5 lbs marrow and knuckle bones
3 carrots
2 onions
olive oil
1/2 c tomato paste
1 bay leaf
2 thyme sprigs
1 c red Burgundy

Set the oven to 350 degrees F.

In a pan that can go from oven to stove-top, bake the bones until they're golden-brown and crispy, about 45 minutes.

Peel the carrots and onions and cut them in large chunks. Dress them lightly with the olive oil.

Take the bones out and smear them with the tomato paste.

Put the vegetables and bones back in the pan, give it a shake, and bake for another 30 minutes or so, until the vegetables have colored and the tomato paste is crispy and caramelized.

Take the bones out. Put the bones, vegetables, bay leaf, and thyme in a large, fresh pot, cover with cold water, and cook over low heat for about 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, put the roasting pan back on the burner, add the wine, scrape up all the delicious brown bits with a wooden spoon, and reduce the liquid. The scraping is called deglazing, and it's essential to the flavor of demi-glace.

Pour the reduced wine and every little scraping into the stockpot with the bones. Simmer uncovered over low heat. Do not boil. Reduce it as much as you dare; 8 hours is not too long. The density of the sauce is not important; a tablespoon of thick demi-glace is as good as a cup of a thinner one.

Strain the sauce, discard the bones and aromatics, and chill.

When it's cold, remove the solid fat. Demi-glace will stay fresh for 2 weeks in the fridge and freezes well.

From The Real Food Cookbook: Traditional Dishes for Modern Cooks by Nina Planck. Available Jun 10, 2014. Bloomsbury USA.