This recipe is from the cookbook Simply French by Patricia Wells, showcasing the cuisine of the late Joel Robuchon. Two changes I made to the original recipe are the use of panko breadcrumbs instead of homemade (although either can work) and the addition of new potatoes to the roasting pan. Although the dish is French-inspired, the wine I served with it is from the Abruzzo region of central Italy, just east of Rome, where lamb is a staple of the diet. Ferzo Wines makes an earthy, full-bodied Montepulciano d’Abruzzo that pairs beautifully with the garlicky leg of lamb. Read more about this excellent, affordable ($20) wine below, following the recipe.
ROAST LEG OF LAMB WITH PARSLEY CRUST
Extra trimmings and bones from lamb upper leg (ask your butcher for these)
Bouquet garni: several parsley stems, celery leaves, and springs of thyme, wrapped in the green part of a leek and securely fastened with cotton twine
3 pounds baby new potatoes, washed but not peeled
2 whole heads plump fresh garlic, unpeeled, cut in half horizontally
1 leg of lamb (about 5 pounds), bone in, carefully trimmed of fat and tied (ask your butcher to do this for you)
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, softened
Sea salt and freshly ground white pepper to taste
3/4 cup panko breadcrumbs
1/4 cup fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves, finely chopped
Sea salt to taste
1 & 1/4 cups cold water
1) Preheat the oven to 425 F.
2) In the bottom of the baking dish, scatter the trimmings, bones, bouquet garni, new potatoes, and garlic, cut side down. Place the lamb on top and rub with the butter. Season generously. Place in the oven and roast about 50 minutes to 1 & 1/4 hours (10 to 12 minutes per pound for medium rare, 15 minutes for medium). Turn the lamb several times while it is cooking and baste occasionally.
3) Place the breadcrumbs, parsley and salt in a small bowl and mix together.
4) Remove the lamb from the oven, and again season generously. On a large platter, place a salad plate upside down on a dinner plate. Transfer the lamb to the platter and set it, exposed bone in the air, at an angle on the upside-down plate. Cover the lamb loosely with aluminum foil. Turn off the oven and place the lamb in the oven, with the door ajar. Let it rest for at least 25 minutes and up to 1 hour.
5) Prepare the sauce: Place the roasting pan with the trimmings and garlic over moderate heat. Cook to caramelize the drippings, 2 to 3 minutes. Be careful not to burn them. Spoon off any excess fat, and add the 1 & 1/4 cups cold water to deglaze the pan, scraping up any bits that cling to the bottom. Lower the heat and cook until reduced by half, 5 to 7 minutes. Strain through a fine-mesh sieve. Taste for seasoning and pour into a warmed sauceboat. Set aside and keep warm.
6) Preheat the broiler.
7) To finish the lamb: With your hands, spread a thin, even layer of the parsley-crumb topping all over the lamb. Place the meat about 3 inches from the broiler, and broil, until the crust is golden brown, about 6 minutes total. Watch carefully and do not let it burn. It may take as little as 2 or 3 minutes. Remove from the oven and carve. Serve with the sauce and red Montepulciano d’Abruzzo wine.
8) Scoop out the soft garlic, clove by clove and use it to spread on toasts, seasoned with a little salt.
FERZO MONTEPULCIANO D'ABRUZZO RED WINE
The Ferzo line of wines takes its name from the Italian word for cloth. The back label of each bottle states that “Ferzo” refers to a patch of fabric that, when stitched together with others, creates a sail. The union of the finest viticultural “patches” in Abruzzo gives life to Ferzo wine, an expression of the best of the region’s indigenous grape varieties. Ferzo produces a line of five wines, two reds and three whites.
The grapes that produce the Ferzo Montepulciano d'Abruzzo grow in the rolling hills that stretch between the Adriatic Sea in the east to the Appenine Mountains in the west. Temperature variations yield a constant breeze, known here as the "brezza di terra". This red wine, a deep purple and ruby color, has the perfect balance between bright sour cherry and wild berries with hints of pepper and spice. The wine’s elegant tannins and palate-cleansing acidity cry out for food. In addition to the leg of lamb, it goes well with all kinds of braised meats, grilled vegetables, hardy pastas, and sharp cheeses.