Roast Leg of Lamb Foccacia Sandwiches

April 1, 2006

Roast Leg of Lamb Foccacia Sandwiches
Varietal: Cabernet Franc

Serves 10 to 12

Scott Staples, chef/owner of perennially popular Restaurant Zoë in Seattle’s Belltown neighborhood, shared this recipe for roast lamb, which will appear in my upcoming book, Northwest Wining and Dining (John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 2007). The lamb can be served for dinner or, as he suggests, as part of a picnic when sliced and stacked on foccacia bread along with roasted red peppers and an herbed cheese spread. As far as wine pairing goes, the chef suggests Cabernet Franc or Syrah if serving as an entrée, or a Dry Rosé if packing a picnic. Cabernet Franc is an intriguing grape, usually used for blending with Cabernet Sauvignon or Merlot, although also produced as a single varietal in Washington state. It is characterized by a deep purple color and fruity/brambleberry aromas and flavors.

1 6- to 8-pound whole leg of lamb, shank intact, hip bone removed, trimmed of most of the fat and silver skin, and tied

2 tablespoons kosher salt

Dijon Herb Salt Crust (Recipe follows)

Good-quality homemade or store-bought foccacia bread

1 package (5.2 ounce) Boursin Garlic and Fine Herbes Cheese

1 cup homemade or store-bought roasted red peppers

Rub the lamb with the salt and allow it to sit at room temperature for one hour.

Put the lamb in a large roasting pan and coat evenly with the Dijon crust. Cover the lamb and refrigerate overnight or up to 24 hours.

Two hours before you want to cook the lamb, remove it from the refrigerator and allow it to stand at room temperature. Ten to 15 minutes before you want to cook the lamb, preheat the oven to 325 degrees.

Place the lamb in the center of the oven and cook for 1 hour. Remove from the oven and check the internal temperature of the meat by testing with an instant-read thermometer. To test, insert the thermometer in two or three places at the top of the leg where it is thickest (but not touching the bone), then average the readings. Chef Staples suggests cooking the meat to an internal temperature of 130 degrees for rare meat, which can take from 1 1/4 to 1 3/4 hours, depending on the size of the leg and the oven. When cooking is complete, take the leg out of the oven, turn it over, and let it rest at room temperature, loosely tented with aluminum foil, for approximately 45 minutes.

Most of the crust will drip off during cooking, but scrape off any remaining crust before carving. To carve, place the leg on a cutting board or large platter, secure with a carving fork and carve thin slices from the side of the leg, slicing downward. Now turn the lamb leg on its side and slice downward along the bone. Place your knife along the bone and slice crosswise to remove the meat.

If serving as an entrée, divide the lamb among dinner plates. If serving as sandwiches, on a clean, smooth work surface, lay out a piece of plastic wrap large enough to fold over the foccacia. Cut the foccacia in half horizontally, spread the top with about 2 ounces of the cheese (use the remaining portion in another recipe or take to your picnic) and layer the bottom with the sliced lamb and the roasted peppers. Put the foccacia pieces back together, press down lightly, and place in the middle of the plastic wrap. Cut into sandwich-size pieces, wrap the focccacia in the plastic wrap, and chill in an ice chest or cooler or refrigerate until ready to serve.

Dijon Herb Salt Crust

Makes about 3 cups

1/2 cup Dijon mustard

1/2 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice

1/2 cup kosher salt

1/4 cup coarsely chopped fresh thyme

1/4 cup coarsely chopped fresh rosemary

3 large eggs

1/2 cup homemade or store-bought unseasoned dry bread crumbs (Note: To make unseasoned dry bread crumbs, place a layer of white or whole wheat bread slices on a baking sheet and bake at 300 degrees for 10 to 15 minutes, or until the bread turns light brown and dries completely. Allow the bread to cool, then place in a food processor or blender and process until it reaches the desired texture.)

1/4 cup black peppercorns, cracked (Note: To crack the peppercorns, place them in a resealable plastic bag, zip it closed, then use a meat mallet or the back of a heavy skillet to crush the peppercorns.)

In a medium mixing bowl, stir together the mustard, lemon juice, salt, thyme, rosemary, and eggs. Stir in the bread crumbs and peppercorns until well blended and use immediately or cover and refrigerate.

Cook’s Hint: Chef Staples suggests using domestic lamb, as opposed to New Zealand, for its less gamey flavor. It’s important to ask your butcher to remove the hip bone, trim as much fat as possible, then tie the remaining meat and leg bone into a roast to promote even cooking. You will also need to plan ahead when you make this recipe, since the lamb needs to marinate at least overnight and requires about four hours of cooking and resting time.