Sometimes a simple roast is just what a weekend dinner calls for. Preparation takes hardly any time beyond allowing for the meat to cook. A delicious leg of lamb with garlic, lemon, rosemary, thyme, and other seasonings make this main dish mouthwatering. There is something truly satisfying when the house wafts the smell of a hearty roast. Pairing the roast with a nice vegetable and starch completes the plate. For me this is a meal that conjures up memories.
There were two people in my life that I recall regularly making roasts; my maternal grandmother Antoinette ‘Sis’ Alioto and my father-in-law Bob von Esmarch. They both cooked a roast to a T and while they always claimed it to be easy to make, as a new cook, I considered it daunting.
Antoinette or Nonie as I used to call her was a cook to envy. The Sicilian dishes she made rivaled any I have ever had, and while she didn’t need to refer to written recipes she consistently and effortlessly prepared her innumerable signature dishes. Our birthdays celebrations were one day apart, which is something I have always treasured. Not a year goes by that I don’t think of her on her birthday, remembering her loving personality, wit and fierce determination to achieve anything she set her mind to. She had a way of making dreams come true, like only a grandmother can. I look back fondly on the days that I lived downstairs from her in the garden studio apartment that she had built for my Aunt Michelle. It was there that we shared nightly dinners and I fell ever more in love with the person she was – an independent outspoken woman with a seemingly tough exterior that was at her core indescribably sensitive.
She gave freely to all of her family, loving each of us in her own special way. And birthday dinners were given for each of us; her four children, their spouses, and seven grandchildren. These special meals that she hosted for all of us, to be enjoyed all together at her enormous dining room table, are forever emblazoned in my mind. Those that knew her still talk about what an incredible person she was. She passed away in 1994, 20 years ago, and yet I can remember her smiling at me as if it was yesterday. I know she would be happy knowing how much I enjoy cooking for my family; to know that in yet another way we are alike. It seems fitting that this post should celebrate her, as it was just a few days ago that we celebrated our kindred birthdays.
Per sempre Nonie.
(To my left are my paternal grandparents, Virginia and Elios Anderlini and to my right are my maternal grandparents Antoinette and Nunzio Alioto.)
Herb and Garlic Roasted Leg of Lamb
1 leg of lamb, about 5 pounds
juice of 1 lemon, about 2 tablespoons
3 cloves garlic, cut in several slivers
1 clove garlic, minced
2 tsps dried crumbled rosemary
1 tsp dried thyme
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Rinse lamb with cold water; pat dry with a clean cloth or paper towels. With a small knife, make several tiny slits evenly all over the lamb roast and insert garlic slivers. Rub lamb with lemon juice, then combine the minced garlic, herbs, salt, and pepper. Rub the garlic-herb mixture over the lamb. In a roasting pan, place lamb, fat side up. Insert thermometer in the thickest part of the meat, not touching fat or bone. Roast lamb about 25 – 30 minutes per pound, or until meat thermometer registers 145 -165 degrees, depending upon cooking preference. Once cooked, remove from oven and allow to sit for 10 minutes before slicing and serving.
Fun Fact: TO A T means exactly, precisely, perfectly, right, as in ‘The description fit him to a T.’ The expression dates from the late 1600s and many sources state that it alludes to the T-square (an ‘exact’ instrument), which is used by draftsmen for mechanical drawing. Meat being ‘cooked to a T’ is a variant that was first recorded in 1780, however, this ‘T’ may have been influenced by the ‘T’ in ‘cooked to a turn.’