I’ve never been a ham person. In fact, I really dislike it. The only time this is ever an issue is Easter Dinner because somehow, this has become the go-to protein for spring because sodium pairs so nicely with tulips. Or something.
Despite this culinary expectation, Easter Dinner has become one of my favorites to make and eat because of my main dish alternative to ham—a stuffed leg of lamb wrapped in pastry.
This recipe is original—it’s inspired by a recipe from a torn Xeroxed copy from an unknown cookbook that’s so old I just used the word Xeroxed. That page was lost decades ago, and the recipe below has morphed into the beautiful dish it is today. This will render the words, “But I don’t like lamb,” a bold-faced lie by anyone who has even spoken such nonsense.
Stuffed Leg of Lamb in Pastry
1 boneless leg of lamb, 5-6 pounds, butterflied (you can have your butcher remove the bone or cut it out yourself—it’s not particularly difficult.)
Salt, pepper and olive oil
2 lbs ground sausage
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 bunch green onions, thinly sliced
2-3 Tablespoons fresh rosemary, finely chopped
Zest of 1 lemon
1 egg, slightly beaten
2 packages frozen puff pastry sheets, thawed
1.) Preheat oven to 450℉. Prepare lamb by opening up, trimming and pounding if necessary to make a somewhat flat, butterflied surface. Season with salt and pepper and set aside.
2.) Make stuffing by browning the sausage in a skillet until no longer pink, about 7-10 minutes. Allow to cool slightly before adding the next 5 ingredients, then mix well. Season with salt and pepper.
3.) Place stuffing in an even layer across the entire surface of the butterflied lamb. Press firmly into the meat, but don’t worry if some spills out. Cut 4 large pieces of kitchen twine, and then get someone to help you tie—you’ll need a couple of hands for this step.
4.) Starting at the narrowest end, roll the lamb and stuffing up jelly-roll style. It doesn’t have to be too tightly rolled, and don’t worry about loose stuffing that falls out. Tie 3 pieces of string across the sides, and 1 lengthwise to hold the ends in place. Trim the excess pieces of string and discard.
5.) Smear a thin layer of olive oil on the tied lamb and place on a rack in the 450 degree oven for about 25 minutes to get a nice sear on the top. Remove from oven and let cool about 20 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 350℉.
6.) Unwrap and slightly roll out the seams of the puff pastry sheets. Place the slightly cooled lamb on top of 1 to 1 1/2 sheets depending on the size. With remaining sheets, wrap top and sides, pressing seams together with your fingers until it looks like a wrapped present with all surfaces covered. Trim off any excess dough and reserve.
7.) You can make any fancy adornments with the extra dough like you would a pie—I make a long braid down the center—or just make a few air vents in the pastry with a small knife. Make a simple egg wash with a beaten egg and water and brush over the entire thing. Sprinkle generously with the kosher salt and put back on the rack of the roasting pan.
8.) Bake in the 350℉ oven for another hour and a half. Check the internal temperature of the lamb often with a meat thermometer a few different places until it reaches medium rare at about 140-145 degrees. Cooking time will depend largely on the size and amount of fat, so it really is important to check the temperature because nothing is tougher than overcooked lamb. This takes approximately 25 minutes per pound, but again, keep checking after 90 minutes. There will be some carry-over cook time when removed from the oven and rested.
9.) When desired internal temperature is reached, remove from oven and let stand 20-30 minutes before slicing.
10.) No mint jelly required. Happy Easter or whatever special occasion you are celebrating.
©2014 Tracey Henry