Ok, ok…. I KNOW that Easter is celebrated globally, so I’m really stretching to call a leg of lamb my US dish. Leg of lamb, spring vegetables, and saffron couscous are more Mediterranean in truth. However – to me – Easter is a sign of home. I cooked this dish for the people that make Austin, Texas home for me. I hope you’ll cook it for the people that create home for you. The recipes may sound a little intimidating, but I promise looks are deceiving!
My United States experience
If you trust Google to define home, you’ll find:
1- the place where one lives permanently, esp. as a member of a family or household.
2- a place where something flourishes.
Lancaster, SC is not the place where I live permanently, but it is the place where I am a member of a household and where I spent the first twenty years of my life. I could not wait to get out. Now don’t get me wrong, I was (and am) incredibly loved. My parents love me to the ends of the earth – even if they wonder if I was switched at birth. (joking, Momma Kay). Their best gift was the confidence to live my dreams – even if it meant living away from them. Lancaster also brought me two amazing brothers, great friends, and Steph, who I can only describe as my family even though we share no blood ties.
I was the ultimate odd ball in Lancaster – a middle-class, good girl that danced on the edges between the smart, upper-class kids in my honors classes and the party crowd. I knew one day would be different. I would lead this fabulous life where I would drive around in a Porsche with a mini-fridge full of coca-cola (I was 8 – I can’t make this stuff up!).
Fast forward a few decades and I’m still not the president’s daughter, and I never got that million-dollar-a-day allowance. But…..my everyday is pretty amazing. For sure, some of it hasn’t yet worked out as I dreamed. More than I will casually admit, I’m fearful of missing out on the things not present in my life today. I can thank Google’s second definition of home – a place where something flourishes – for where I am today.
My homes of Austin, Charlotte, Chapel Hill, Hong Kong, and New York City introduced me to the people that allowed my soul to flourish – the people that influenced, loved, and challenged me. You might know some similar characters – the friend who is constantly pushing the limits which means you run behind her with a safety net, the friend with the ever-pervasive positive attitude and boundless energy, the friend who is probably in love with you but would never cross that line, the temporary soul-mate who gives you the freedom to truly express love, the heartbreaker with the little-boy soul that is trapped behind a mask of misery and insecurity, the friend whose path towards confidence inspires you to be bold, the friend who challenges you to travel somewhere you would never dream of going, the friend who supports you as you learn new hobbies, the friend who actually picks up the phone in this crazy disconnected world, and finally, the friends who love you through every misstep. Who are the characters in your home?
Listen up, Google. Let’s try out this definition of home.
1 – Where you appreciate your path, devour your present, and curate your future.
Why leg of lamb, spring vegetables, and saffron couscous?
Simply put, it feeds a large group of people and sounds pretty glamorous – but is actually pretty simple. I also cooked coconut cake balls (disastrously) and pea soup (quite successfully), but I’ll save those for later.
An Austin leg of lamb, spring vegetables, and saffron couscous experience
I invited the gang over for Easter to my rather tiny condo. Who needs space when you have love, right? You’ve met a few of these characters and you’ll meet a few more as we go through the year.
Inspirational recipe and resources
Bon Appetite set the stage for this meal.
Tweaks and cautionary tales
I followed this relatively closely, although I did replace the pine nuts with toasted macadamia nuts to cut the cost a bit.
- Learning Curve: medium
- Pre-work: prepare the meat the night before
- Vegetarian: no
- Healthy: medium
- Freezes well: yes
Final recommended Leg of lamb
- 1½ sticks room temp unsalted butter
- 3 tablespoons chopped fresh tarragon
- 3 tablespoons chopped fresh mint
- 4 teaspoons tarragon vinegar (optional: make this before by soaking tarragon overnight in white vinegar)
- 2 teaspoons coarse kosher salt
- 1 6½-pound leg of lamb with bone, well trimmed
- 1 tablespoon 1-inch-long very thin strips orange peel (orange part only)
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- kosher salt
- 2 cups dry red wine
- 1⅓ cups low-salt chicken broth
- 2 teaspoons finely grated orange peel
- Garland of Spring Vegetables (see recipe link above)
- Fresh tarragon and mint sprigs (for garnish)
- Herb butter: If you don't have tarragon vinegar, soak a few sprigs of tarragon in white vinegar the night before. Stir butter, tarragon, mint, tarragon vinegar, and 2 teaspoons coarse salt in medium bowl until well blended. Set aside ¼ cup for later use.
- Lamb: On the night before cooking, make 1-inch-deep slits all over lamb with a small knife. Insert 3 or 4 orange peel strips into each slit. Enclose lamb in plastic wrap and chill.
- On cooking day: Position rack in bottom third of oven and preheat to 450°F. Heat oil in very large skillet over medium-high heat. Sprinkle lamb with coarse salt and pepper. Add lamb to skillet; cook until brown on all sides, about 8 minutes. Transfer to roasting pan. Brush with 2 tablespoons herb butter. Roast lamb 15 minutes. Brush again with 2 tablespoons herb butter.
- Reduce temperature to 350°F. Continue to roast lamb until thermometer inserted into thickest part registers 135°F to 140°F for medium-rare, about 55 minutes. Consider if some diners would like it more well cooked. If so, separate some of the lamb and heat for a bit longer. Transfer lamb to platter; reserve pan. Tent lamb loosely with foil; let rest 30 minutes.
- Sauce: Spoon fat off any juices in roasting pan. Place pan over 2 burners on high heat. Add wine and broth and bring to boil, whisking to scrape up browned bits. Boil until sauce is reduced to 2 cups, about 5 minutes. Whisk in remaining herb butter and grated orange peel. Season sauce to taste with coarse salt and pepper.
- Cook vegetables as directed in above recipe. Spoon vegetables around lamb on platter; garnish with fresh herb sprigs. Serve with sauce.