Greek-Style Leg of Lamb with Potatoes + Tzatziki

Submitted by Alex Polemeropoulos, Sudbury MA. He picks up his copy of Edible Boston at Verrill Farm in Concord.

"My parents are from the small fishing town of Volos in the Thessaly region on the mainland of Greece. Growing up, we naturally ate a lot of lamb along with plenty of seafood.  We've been using the same family recipe for all large cuts of lamb, from a leg of lamb in the oven to a whole lamb on a spit over an open fire at Easter.

You will notice that this recipe uses butter and lemon to baste the roasting lamb instead of olive oil and lemon. This has been a contentious issue in my family as far back as I can side of the family says olive oil, the other says butter. I prefer butter since the end result is a delectable and crispy coating on the meat that everyone fights to pick at when the lamb comes out of the oven. Olive oil may be the traditional route, but I find that roasting good oil destroys its delicacy and the end result is unappreciated. Butter is better."

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Serves 6–8 with leftovers

1 whole bone-in leg of lamb from a local farm, preferably grass-fed; size doesn't matter, it's whatever the animal let us have
4–5 cloves of garlic
Kosher salt
Fresh ground black pepper
Dried oregano (Greek is preferred)
Potatoes: depending on the size of the lamb, you want enough potatoes to cover the bottom of the pan and lay the lamb on top to roast
4 lemons
1 stick of butter

Allow the lamb to come to room temperature. Preheat oven to 350° F. Trim excessive fat off the lamb, but leave some on to flavor the potatoes. Cut the garlic into slivers, about the size and shape of slivered almonds (I usually cut each clove of garlic into two or three pieces lengthwise), and place in a bowl.

To the bowl, add about 1 teaspoon salt, 1 teaspoon pepper, and 1–2 tablespoons oregano. Mix with your hands, squeezing the cloves a little to press the herbs onto the garlic, but don't mash.

Cut slits using a small paring knife into the meatiest parts of the lamb. Into each cut place a sliver of garlic and a solid pinch of the herb-salt mixture. Do this on both sides of the leg. Also, make a slit down the shaft of bone and stuff some garlic and herbs in there, too.

Next, drizzle some olive oil on the lamb and use your hands to coat it. This helps the herbs stick. Use the remaining herb mix from the garlic bowl and spread it over the leg. After you run out, add an additional sprinkling of salt, pepper and oregano on the lamb. Be generous! Coat it well.

Cut the potatoes in large chunks and scatter them to cover the bottom of a roasting pan in one layer. Squeeze 3 lemons onto the potatoes and add some water to come up about halfway on the side of the potatoes (you want them in liquid, but not submerged). Sprinkle more salt, pepper and oregano over the potatoes. Place the lamb on top of the potatoes and put it in the oven.

The lamb will take several hours to cook, depending on the size. We always cook the leg until the meat is literally falling away from the bone.

As the lamb roasts, baste every 30 minutes with the following mixture:  juice of 1 lemon, 1 stick of melted butter, hearty dash of each salt, pepper and oregano. Use a brush to baste the warmed mixture all over the top of the meat.  Check the liquid in the pan and add a small amount of water if the potatoes begin to burn.

Roast the lamb until the internal temperature is about 165° F to 170°F, about 3–4 hours for a large leg (8+ pounds) and 1.5–2 hours for a small 4 pound leg.

Let the meat rest for 20 minutes before cutting and serving.

Serve with the potatoes and a fresh romaine lettuce salad with spring onions.

Serving tzatziki with the meat takes it to a whole new level. These days it is very easy to make tzatziki since you can buy "Greek yogurt" at just about any grocery store. However, I prefer to use yogurt from grass-fed cows with the cream on top. If you end up using Greek yogurt, try to find full-fat Greek yogurt; it's noticeably better than the low-fat/non-fat varieties.

For the old fashioned regular yogurt method:

1 quart cream-top yogurt
1 medium cucumber
2 cloves garlic, crushed (use 1 clove if you want a more mild tzaziki)
1/4 cup chopped fresh dill
Salt and pepper to taste

Day 1: Take a piece of cheesecloth or a kitchen towel and place in a bowl. Empty the quart of yogurt into the towel and tie the ends of the towel together so you can hang the yogurt to drain. (Save the whey; you can use it mixed with yogurt for pancakes or waffles in place of buttermilk!)

Day 2: Peel the cucumber and grate it on a coarse box grater.  Lightly salt the grated cucumber, stir, and let sit for a few minutes so the salt can draw some water out of the cucumber. A small handful at a time, squeeze the water out of the cucumber and place in a new bowl. It should be roughly 1 cup.

To the cucumber add the garlic, salt, pepper and chopped dill. Add the yogurt and mix thoroughly. Taste and add more salt and pepper if needed.

For the pre-made Greek yogurt method:
Grate, salt and drain the cucumber as in the previous method, then stir along with the last 3 ingredients into a container of full-fat organic Greek yogurt. Serve.