Recipe: Spice-Seared Boneless Leg of Lamb

published Nov 21, 2007
We independently select these products—if you buy from one of our links, we may earn a commission. All prices were accurate at the time of publishing.
Post Image
(Image credit: Apartment Therapy)

When turkey is on everyone’s minds it may seem strange to be talking about lamb. But if you’re not bound to a turkey or a traditional menu, this lamb makes a fast, foolproof, and delicious holiday main course.

We rubbed it with cinnamon, turmeric, cumin and other warm spices, along with salt and pepper. You don’t need a grill and your oven can be devoted to other things; this is cooked on top of the stove and takes less than an hour. And the taste – it’s so hard to photograph meat so we just have to tell you: it turned out juicy, filled with subtly exotic flavors, and oh-so-tender.

We used a boneless butterflied leg of lamb from Trader Joe’s, which tend to be small. If you use a larger leg they are often up to 5-6 pounds. Simply adjust the stovetop cooking time; you may need to cook it covered for an hour. Check the temperature every 15 minutes or so, and remember that this will cook significantly after you take it off the heat. Ours was pink inside when we took it off, but very little color remained half an hour later when we ate.

The beauty of this recipe is that, even when overcooked, the dry salt rub and low cooking heat keep it tender and juicy.

Spice-Seared Boneless Leg of Lamb
serves 2-4

2 pound boneless butterflied lamb leg roast (check Trader Joe’s or your local butcher)

1 1/4 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric

Olive oil

Combine all rub ingredients thoroughly. (Note: If you don’t keep all these spices around, you can substitute a good, fresh garam masala from Penzeys or another spice specialty company for the cinnamon through the turmeric. Add the salt and black pepper, still.)

Pat the lamb dry with a paper towel and cover with the dry rub. Cover loosely and refrigerate overnight.

Heat a heavy covered skillet over high heat. Add a drizzle of olive oil and a spoonful of butter. When it sizzles, add the lamb. Sear until it develops a dark crust – about 8 minutes on each side.

Turn the heat to low and cover. Cook over low heat for about 20 minutes, checking after about 15 minutes. When the internal temperature hits 140ºF on a meat thermometer, turn off the heat and let sit, still covered, for about 10 minutes.

Remove the meat to a cutting board. Tent loosely with foil and let sit for about another 15 minutes before slicing. Slice thinly against the grain and serve immediately.

The pan drippings left behind tend to be rather salty. Reheat them after you remove the meat and add at least a cup of wine or broth and simmer until reduced by half. Serve as is or whisk in a teaspoon of flour and cook over low heat until thickened.