Like turkey, leg of lamb is a culinary project that's all too often saved for company.
But look at the payoff of roasting a leg of lamb when you don't have many mouths to feed -- leftovers. And that means lamb pizza, lamb sandwiches, lamb casseroles and more. What a deal.
Robin Ganse, director of product publicity for the American Lamb Council in Englewood, Colo., says to figure about 1/2 pound of leg of lamb per person to allow for the bone. Thus, a 6-pound leg of lamb yields 12 servings if you're serving it sliced, as the entree.
Use the leftovers in salad, on sandwiches or pizza or in a saute with vegetables, though, and you'll stretch the meat even more. If you serve four at the first meal, you should be able to get pizza for four, a saute for two and a batch of sandwiches or a lamb salad from what's left. And you can use the bone to make soup.
Author Kathy Gunst knows how to maximize the investment. In "Leftovers" (Harper Perennial, $12.95), her cookbook on using meats the second time around, she writes: "Don't make the mistake I always do when roasting a leg of lamb by inviting too many people to dinner; there won't be anything left over. And, as far as I'm concerned, leftover leg of lamb is almost better than the hot roast."
Rare lamb makes the best leftovers, since the meat will be cooked longer in everything but sandwiches. Resist the tendency to overcook.
Leg of lamb also makes a good choice for the harried cook. Once it's in the oven, you have an hour or so to relax, read the mail and assemble the rest of the meal. Easy suggestions: buttered orzo (rice-shaped pasta), a green salad and steamed broccoli. Throw some refrigerated bread sticks in the oven after the lamb is done, while you make the gravy.
Here, from Ms. Gunst's book, is a basic recipe for leg of lamb, plus some ways to use the leftovers.
Roast leg of lamb
Makes 12 servings.
1 (6-pound) leg of lamb, trimmed of any excess fat
L 6 to 8 large garlic cloves, peeled and cut into thin slivers
3 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 cup red or white wine
2 1/2 tablespoons balsamic, sherry or red wine vinegar
4 to 5 sprigs fresh rosemary, or 1 teaspoon crumbled dried
freshly ground black pepper
watercress for garnish
about 1 to 2 tablespoons flour
boiling water, chicken stock or wine
salt and freshly ground black pepper
Place the lamb in a large roasting pan. Make thin X's in the skin of the lamb and insert the garlic. Coat the top, sides and bottom of the meat with olive oil. Pour the wine and vinegar over the lamb and scatter the rosemary and a generous grinding of pepper on top. Cover and let marinate in the refrigerator for several hours or overnight.
Heat the oven to 450 degrees. Put the lamb in the oven and bake 15 minutes. Reduce the heat to 350 degrees and roast about 10 to 12 minutes per pound, or until the meat reaches an internal temperature of 140 degrees. This will produce meat that is pink; if you like your lamb well-done, keep it in the oven an extra 5 minutes per pound.
Remove the meat to a large serving platter. Garnish with watercress. Let the meat rest while you make the gravy.
Degrease the pan juices, then heat the pan on top of the stove, scraping up any bits and pieces that cling to the bottom. Add 1 to 2 tablespoons of flour to the juices, depending on the amount of juice you have, and stir to thicken. If the gravy gets too thick, add a touch of water, chicken stock or wine. Season the gravy to taste and serve on the side of the roast.
Lamb with tomatoes, olives and lemon zest
Makes 2 servings.
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon butter
3 scallions, cut into 2-inch pieces
3/4 cup thinly sliced cooked leg of lamb, preferably pink
1 large ripe tomato, cubed
1 tablespoon grated lemon zest
1 cup black olives, preferably kalamata, pitted and left whole or ,, cut in half
salt and freshly ground black pepper
about 1/2 cup sour cream
1 scallion, thinly sliced
In a medium skillet, heat the oil and butter over moderate heat. Saute the scallions for about 1 minute, until slightly softened but not brown.
Add the lamb; stir for a few seconds. Toss in the tomato and saute another 2 minutes, stirring frequently. Gently stir in the lemon zest, olives and salt and pepper; heat through. Serve immediately with the sour cream and scallions on the side.
Makes 4 servings.
Ms. Gunst gives this recipe for "lamejun," a Middle Eastern lamb pizza. The recipe has been adapted to use store-bought Boboli crust or other prepared crust.
3 tablespoons olive oil (divided use)
3 medium onions, very thinly sliced
10 sun-dried tomatoes (optional)
1 cup chopped cooked lamb
2 garlic cloves, chopped
2 ripe tomatoes or canned plum tomatoes
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
pinch of salt
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon Tabasco or other liquid hot pepper sauce
4 small Boboli pizza shells
2 garlic cloves, very thinly sliced
1 1/2 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary, or 1/2 tablespoon crumbled dried
1 1/2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil, or 1/2 tablespoon crumbled dried