In the coming days, Christmas and New Year's will bring friends and family to many tables, including ours, so I have been culling my files for roasted meats to share at these celebrations.
I found a recipe for fennel-and-mustard-scented leg of lamb, which I served to visitors earlier this fall. The roast, simple to prepare, was bursting with flavor and was quite popular with our friends. It would make a perfect centerpiece for a holiday meal.
A platter of roasted vegetables, including red-skin or Yukon Gold potato wedges, thickly sliced carrots and wide strips of fennel, drizzled with olive oil and cooked in a hot oven until tender, makes an excellent accompaniment. A wild rice or corn bread dressing would also be appropriate, and you might like to offer a cranberry or other fruit chutney as a condiment.
Fennel-and-Mustard-Scented Roasted Boneless Leg of Lamb
Makes 6 servings, with 2 good-sized slices each
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1 1/2 teaspoons soy sauce
1 medium garlic clove, minced
1 tablespoon fennel seeds, crushed (see Note)
1 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil, plus more if needed
salt, freshly ground black pepper
1 (3-pound) boneless leg of lamb, trimmed of excess fat and tied (see Note)
1 1/2 cups red wine
1 cup reduced-sodium chicken stock
1/2 to 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, optional
1 tablespoon chopped flat-leaf parsley, for garnish, optional
To prepare Seasoned Butter, combine butter, mustard, soy sauce, garlic, fennel seeds and pepper in small bowl and mix well to blend. Butter can be made 1 day ahead. Cover and refrigerate. Bring to room temperature before using.
To prepare Lamb, coat bottom of large, heavy, flameproof roasting pan (preferably not nonstick variety) with 1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil, plus more if needed.
Place over medium-high heat and, when oil is hot, salt and pepper lamb and add to pan. Brown well on all sides, 4 to 5 minutes. Remove pan from heat. Use half of Seasoned Butter to brush browned lamb on all sides.
Place pan with lamb on lower rack in oven. Roast at 375 degrees until meat thermometer inserted into thickest part reads 130 to 135 degrees for medium-rare. Cooking time will vary with thickness of roast. A roast about 3 inches in diameter will cook in 30 minutes, while a larger-diameter roast will take 40 to 45 minutes or longer.
When thermometer has reached correct temperature, remove pan from oven. Transfer lamb to side dish and cover loosely with foil while you prepare sauce.
Skim off and discard fat from roasting pan. Place pan over high heat and add wine and stock. With whisk or fork, scrape up pan drippings and cook until mixture is reduced by half, 5 minutes or longer. Swirl in remaining Seasoned Butter. Taste and season if necessary with salt and pepper. For richer taste, swirl in 1/2 to 1 tablespoon butter.
To serve, cut off and discard string from roast. Slice lamb into A-inch-thick slices and arrange, overlapping, on platter. Nap slices with some sauce and sprinkle with chopped parsley. Pass extra sauce separately.
Notes: To crush fennel seeds, place in self-sealing plastic bag and crush with meat pounder or rolling pin, or use mortar and pestle.
When buying boneless leg of lamb, ask butcher to remove all excess fat and to tie roast securely at 2-inch intervals into tight cylindrical shape. Roast will then be ready for cooking.