Greeks like to joke about the song “Mary Had a Little Lamb” by noting that it’s in past tense. Had.
When it comes to the red meat category, beef really isn’t as common in Greece as lamb. Cows are big, and Greece is not. Sheep and goats don’t require as much space to raise, so they are a natural choice for those small island pastures. They also taste really good.
Lamb has a more distinct flavor than beef. I actually think it tastes very similar to venison, so the two could be used in the same kinds of recipes, as well as beef. Lamb also has the tendency to be a little on the fatty side, so this is why it holds up so well with seasonings that aren’t bashful. Like garlic. Lots and lots of garlic. Garlic is not shy. Neither is lemon. Mmmmmm… lemon.
Many Greek recipes also incorporate a “one pot” kind of mentality, too. Instead of making a bunch of separate dishes, just put it all together and call it good (you will call this one good, trust me). Easy, peasy! It’s not a surprise, really. Ovens weren’t really common in Greek village homes until more recently. It was more typical to bring your food to the local bakery and use theirs, so you didn’t have your own space to hog up with a bunch of pans. The end result, though, is food with much more incorporated flavor!
By the time your potatoes are done, they will have been roasting and soaking in a rich lemony, winey, garlicky, herby, lamby (it’s a word, I’m sure) broth. Your lamb will be tender and bursting with flavor, and you will have plenty of food to spare. What’s not to love?
Roast Leg of Lamb with Potatoes Recipe
- 4-5 lb. boneless leg of lamb
- 1/4 c. finely chopped garlic
- 2 6-inch sprigs of fresh rosemary, leaves stripped from stems and finely chopped
- 4 6-inch sprigs of fresh oregano, Greek preferred, leaves stripped from stems and finely chopped
- 1/4 c. extra virgin olive oil, plus extra for potatoes
- 1/2 c. lemon juice
- 1/2 c. red wine (I like jug-o-wine cheap burgundy, myself!)
- 1/2 tsp. salt, plus extra for potatoes
- dried oregano, Greek preferred
- pepper to taste
- potatoes, roasting types (like red) rather than baking, either baby potatoes left whole, or larger potatoes cut into chunks
Have your lamb out of the refrigerator for at least an hour to start reaching room temperature. Preheat oven to 450 F.
Put the desired amount of potatoes into a large mixing bowl, generously drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste, and enough dried oregano to lightly coat. Mix together well, then place potatoes into the bottom of a deep roasting pan. Choose a pan that is not much bigger than your lamb so that the potatoes will be mostly covered by the roast.
In the large mixing bowl, combine the garlic, fresh herbs, 1/4 cup oil, lemon juice, wine, 1/2 tsp. salt, and pepper (if desired) and mix together well. Place the roast in the bowl, and smear the seasonings into the cracks and crevices of the meat, and on the outside. Place the roast over the potatoes, fat side up, and make sure the open side of the roast where the bone was removed is closed up and tucked under. Pour the rest of the mixture evenly over the lamb and the potatoes and gently jiggle the potatoes around to make sure they have been coated with the liquid.
Place the roast in the oven and reduce the heat to 350 F. Bake for 25-30 minutes per pound. Remove the roast after the first 45 minutes to baste it (close that oven door!). Use a bulb baster to suck up the juices and gently squirt them over the meat and the potatoes. Return the roast to the oven, and repeat the basting process after each 45 minute interval. After the roast is done (approximately 2 1/2 hours), baste again, lightly cover with foil, and allow the meat and potatoes to sit for at least 10-15 minutes.
Once the meat has rested, remove the meat from the pan and carve into slices. Remove the potatoes and place in a serving bowl. Pour the juices left in the pan into a pitcher for serving at the table. Add a little more lemon to the juices, if desired. My favorite part is to smash my potatoes on my plate and pour juices over them, super yummy!! You will likely have a lot of liquid left over, don’t toss it down the drain! I like to keep a tub in the freezer that I add left over juices from roasts to. I don’t keep them separate, just mix it all into one container then defrost when I want some. These become amazing flavor additions to soups and stews. Replace some of the broth with these juices and see!