Everyone who has eaten this dish says it’s the best leg of lamb they’ve ever tasted. I agree, and I can verify that it's the highlight of one of the most-requested classes I have ever taught. Just be sure you don’t overcook the meat—lamb tastes best when it's rare and juicy.
There are two wines that pair magnificently with this dish.
Not surprisingly, they both come from Provence: Châteauneuf-du-Pape (my favorite is Clos des Pape), and Bandol Rouge (I love those from Domaine Tempier inordinately!) If you are on a budget, a Côte du Rhône will do admirably. —ChefJune
Test Kitchen Notes
WHO: ChefJune is a long-time Food52 member and food and wine educator in Boston.
WHAT: A garlic-spiked leg of lamb that's finished with (what else?) more garlic—30 cloves, to be exact.
HOW: Make slits all over a leg of lamb, then stuff garlic and anchovies into each one. Rub the leg with herbs and olive oil, then bake until medium-rare. Serve alongside a garlic and red wine sauce cooked in the pan drippings.
WHY WE LOVE IT: A classic leg of lamb at first glance, this recipe by ChefJune has several details that elevate it from the expected to the exceptional. The meat is fragrant from the herbs, briny from the anchovies, and robust from the red wine sauce. Make sure to test the temperature frequently towards the end—the last thing you want is 5 pounds of overcooked lamb! —The Editors
For the lamb
(5-pound) leg of lamb, bone in (I especially like a long shin bone for presentation)
large garlic cloves, slivered
anchovy fillets, coarsely chopped
extra-virgin olive oil
fresh thyme, finely chopped
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Have your butcher prepare the meat by removing most of the fat and skin from the leg, and by removing most of the bare bone that protrudes from the leg. If you want a slightly smaller leg, have him (or her!) shorten it from the hip end. When you’re ready to roast it, trim lamb of any excess fat. Make many slits all over the lamb and insert a sliver of garlic and a piece of anchovy in each incision. Finely chop the rosemary and thyme and mix the herbs with sea salt and pepper in a small bowl. Rub the lamb with 2 tablespoons of olive oil, and the herb mixture. Let it stand for 1 to 2 hours.
Preheat oven to 425° F. Place the meat on a rack in a roasting pan, and cook, uncovered, for 20 minutes. Reduce the heat to 350° F, and cook for 40 to 45 minutes for medium-rare lamb. The temperature on an instant-read thermometer should register 130° F. (That’s how it’s supposed to be!)
To make the garlic sauce, heat the olive oil in a heavy skillet and cook the 24 garlic cloves slowly for about 10 minutes, or until they are soft (don’t let the edges get crisp—or brown). Set aside in a small bowl.
Remove lamb to a warmed platter, and turn off the oven. Cover with an aluminum foil tent and set it in the oven to keep warm while you prepare the sauce. On top of the stove, put wine into the roasting pan, scraping the bottom well to loosen any brown bits or caramelized juices, and cook the wine over a high flame to reduce it by about one-third. Add the reduced liquid to the garlic cloves. Mash well with a fork, and add sea salt and pepper to taste.
Slice the lamb and grind some fresh black pepper over it. Spoon on the sauce, and sprinkle it all with freshly chopped parsley.