Saveur (December 2012)
Just the other day we were saying that you don't need to worry about things being perfect when you serve them at the dinner table -- especially at the holidays, when things can get a little crazy.
We meant that. But come on. Isn't there still a little part of you that still wants that perfection? Especially at the holidays?
Don't you still fantasize just a little bit about striding triumphantly to a table full of applauding guests, carrying a huge platter laden with roast holiday fare? Like Charles Dickens meets Norman Rockwell meets Martha Stewart?
We'll totally cop to that ourselves.
And guess what? With this Roast Leg of Lamb with Apples and Fennel, you're well on your way to that Dickensian Rockwellian Stewartian vision of holiday perfection. The good news is, it's darn easy.
The rest is honestly rather easy. There's a decent amount of prep -- core the apples, cut fennel and onion into quarters, tie up the lamb and stud it with garlic and rosemary. And then you whisk together the pomegranate vinaigrette and drizzle over the lamb and apples.
But that's it! Roast for about an hour and 20 minutes, and then let it rest a bit. Then you're ready for the platter ladening and the triumphant striding and the applauding and the balloon drop and all that.
The flavors here are really wonderful, and slightly unexpected. The pomegranate and red currant and lemon -- not to mention the fennel and apples themselves -- pair marvelously with the lamb. It's really something special.
Seriously, this is an impressive-looking final product -- even moreso, considering how relatively easy it is to make.
And if that's not holiday perfection, we don't know what is.
Serves 8 - 10
1 (5-lb.) bone-in leg of lamb, shank bone exposed
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
10 cloves garlic, peeled and halved crosswise
⅓ cup rosemary leaves
6 small, firm, tart apples, such as Fuji, Gala, or Granny Smith, left whole and cored with an apple corer
1 small yellow onion, quartered
1 medium bulb fennel, trimmed and cut into ¾" wedges
1 cup red currant jelly, plus more for serving
1 cup apple juice
½ cup pomegranate molasses (available from Market Hall Foods)
Zest and juice of 1 lemon
Mint leaves, to garnish (optional)
Heat oven to 450°. Tie lamb with kitchen twine in 1" intervals so it forms an even shape; season liberally with salt and pepper. Using a paring knife, pierce the meat in about 6 places, and stuff holes with the garlic and half the rosemary leaves. Halve 2 apples crosswise, and place in the bottom of a 9" × 13" baking dish; sprinkle with remaining rosemary, and add onion and fennel. Season with salt and pepper, and place lamb on top of vegetables.
Arrange remaining apples, right side up, on one side of the lamb. Fill each apple with about 2 tbsp. jelly; rub remaining jelly over lamb. Whisk together apple juice, pomegranate molasses, and lemon zest and juice in a medium bowl; drizzle over lamb and apples. Wrap a small piece of foil around the tip of the lamb bone to prevent it from burning, and roast until lamb is beginning to brown, about 30 minutes. Reduce heat to 350°, and continue roasting until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the lamb reads 130°, about 45 minutes for medium-rare.
Remove lamb from the oven and let rest for 20 minutes. Remove twine, and thinly slice lamb crosswise; transfer to a serving platter. Arrange apples, onion, and fennel alongside lamb, and garnish with mint leaves, if you like. Serve with more jelly on the side.