The Year of the Lamb (or Sheep).
Though it is not a Chinese New Year tradition to make a dish using the new zodiac animal, there Nathan and I were at our local Whole Foods around the Chinese New Year, eyeing the bone-in leg of lamb. I feel it necessary to reveal that 1) I have never cooked a leg of lamb before, and 2) Nathan rarely eats red meat. And yet, still we walked out with the leg of the lamb.
We had purchased a much smaller lamb steak a week before that I marinaded in lemon juice, garlic, rosemary, salt, black pepper, and olive oil and pan-fried in a skillet. That experiment turned out well, so we felt confident that we could make the leg of lamb work—never mind that we had no idea what we would do with it. After consulting a variety of cookbooks ranging from Alice Water’s The Art of Simple Food to Irma Rombauer’s The Joy of Cooking, I learned that legs of lamb are commonly broiled. As my oven has a broiler, despite never having broiled anything in my life, I decided that we would attempt a broil.
We enjoyed the marinade from the previous lamb steak trial, so I created a similar dry rub from garlic, rosemary, salt, and black pepper. After rubbing and letting the leg rest in the refrigerator for a few hours, I took it out and turned on the broiler. Confusingly, the oven setting asked me to choose between “HI” and “LO,” and I couldn’t decipher whether the oven setting referred to the temperature or the location of my to-be-broiled-lamb within the oven. I adventurously set the broil on “HI” and put the skillet inside the bottom drawer of the oven. After several iterations of experimenting with “HI,” “LO,” “HI,” “LO” and sticking an instant-read thermometer, I pulled the skillet out when the thermometer read 138°F—“medium,” according to Alice Waters. See the photo below for the final result. Not too shabby for a first time broiler!
To accompany the lamb, I took an idea from Tampopo, one of my favorite Japanese restaurants. They serve a rice bowl called “Tampopo Don” that comes with seaweed salad, slightly chilled and sweetened veggies (typically carrots and broccoli), one or two fried potato wedges, and katsu with spicy mayo. I love the combination of flavors and textures in Tampopo Don Pork—everything is delicious on its own, but the combination of a little of everything in a bowl is fantastic. So, drawing inspiration from Tampopo’s rice bowl, I stir-fried bell peppers and red onions together, mixed the veggies with quinoa, boiled and smashed red fingerling potatoes with olive oil, garlic, and rosemary, and served the leg of lamb in a bowl on top of everything else.