lamb in a manger

In planning for our 2010 Christmas Eve Dinner, I reflected back on what had been prepared in years past. I could not recall a single instance in which lamb was served, which seemed strange, considering my wife’s affinity for lamb. A crown roast seemed festive, but there were only two of us, and I didn’t want lamb loin leftovers.

A leg of lamb seemed more amenable to being sized to our appetites and perfect for being tailored to the festive occasion. The recipe below is based on a classic Christmas Roast Lamb with Basil Stuffing preparation, but punted to the ultimate rung. Perhaps needless to say, since that it appears here, the result was outstanding.

  • 1 oz olive oil
  • ½ medium onion, chopped
  • ½ cup celery, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 cup shiitake mushrooms, sliced
  • 4 oz frozen spinach, thawed
  • ¼ red bell pepper, in thin strips
  • ¼ cup fresh parsley, minced
  • 3 tbsp fresh basil, chopped
  • 1 tbsp fresh marjoram
  • 1 tsp ground rosemary
  • ¼ tsp fresh ground black pepper
  • ¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 lb leg of lamb
  • 1 tbsp garlic powder
  • fresh basil leaves, chiffonade
  • fresh mint leaves, chiffonade
  • fresh marjoram leaves

For the stuffing, sauté the onion, celery, garlic, and mushrooms in the oil until tender, but not browned.

In a mixing bowl, stir together the egg, spinach, bell pepper, parsley, basil, marjoram, rosemary, cheese, and pepper; fold in the onion mixture until uniformly incorporated.

Remove any fell (or silver skin) from the lamb and, with a sharp knife, open the meat into a uniformly butterflied slab. Use wax paper and pound the meat into an even thickness. Spread the stuffing over the meat, roll up, and tie securely, first at the ends and then in the middle.

Place the roast, seam side down, in a roasting pan. Dust the roast with garlic powder. Insert a thermometer in the thickest part of the roll and roast at 325°F for about 20 minutes until the meat reaches 150°F. Let the roast stand about 10 minutes before carving into serving sized slices. Remove the strings before carving.

Serve garnished with mint, basil, and marjoram leaves.