Growing up, the two main holidays in my family were Passover and Thanksgiving; it was not a coincidence that both center around a meal. These days, since we observe nothing in particular, Sunday was better for us and our guests so that’s when the meal happened. I do have sentimental attachments to the Seder, but only the people- not to the tedium and all the rules. My Grandmother used to make a mean leg of lamb, and my Mom learned from her, but sitting there for what seemed like an eternity before we actually got to eat it was never any fun. Since they’re gone, it falls to me to continue the tradition, only without the waiting and with a few modifications to the technique.
The trick my ancestors used was to cut slits in the meat and poke garlic cloves inside to perfume the meat and cook along with it. I do the same, but I cut the cloves in half lengthwise so they’re thinner, and I wrap each one in a few rosemary leaves before I tuck them in. I also like a spice rub and cooking it on the grill instead of the oven. The above is a whole local lamb leg, with the shank cut off and frozen for another time, prepared thus and well-rubbed with a mixture of salt, pepper, pimentón, cumin, 5-spice, and mustard powder, then left to sit for about three hours to soak up the flavor and come to room temperature.
After a spell on the grill, it was perfect: nice and smoky on the outside, and still very red at the bone. We all took slices from different depths to enjoy the full spectrum. Around the lamb, moving clockwise, are preserved lemons puréed with good brown mustard, a pesto made only from things that I picked in the yard and garden (wild chives, ramps, oregano, parsley, chervil, kale, pan di zucchero, radicchio, sorrel, sage and enough oil to bring it together) then arugula salad, C&S’s kale and turnips in dashi, their burdock and celery with black sesame seeds, and parsnips they brought (all the vegetables came from their root cellar) which I steamed and mashed with sour cream, vanilla, and the steaming water.
We all went back several times. The two condiments were wicked with the meat, and all of the vegetables were amazingly rich and satisfying. My wife, who is much more into traditions and holidays and such, took it upon herself to make a cake. Lacking a lamb-shaped baking dish, she went with a simple springform and made a banana cake with sour cream and lemon buttercream covered in coconut. It too was well-received, especially by the kids. Best of all, when you have a big meal at 2 PM and linger over it you can skip dinner altogether.