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Arni Psiti (Roast Lamb)

Slices of Arni Psiti (Roast Lamb)
Kevin D. Weeks for NPR

Just as the Spanish eat lamb but adore pork, the Greeks eat pork but adore lamb and mutton, so spring lamb is a tradition. However, spring lamb doesn't make good economic sense in this country. At 15 to 20 pounds, it's not worth the winter-long investment in food and care for the ewe, even if the primary reason for the sheep is wool or milk. Therefore, in the U.S., lambs are usually allowed to grow in the pasture over the summer, making them larger and more valuable. This recipe features an oven-roasted leg from a lamb harvested last fall.

Makes 6 servings

2 lemons, zested and juiced (3 to 4 tablespoons)

3 tablespoons minced fresh oregano

3 tablespoons minced fresh thyme

1 tablespoon kosher or sea salt

2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper

4- to 5-pound leg of lamb

2 to 3 tablespoons olive oil, preferably Greek

4 to 6 cloves garlic, sliced into slivers

2 to 3 tablespoons fresh rosemary leaves

In a small bowl, thoroughly combine lemon zest, thyme, oregano, salt and pepper.

Pat meat dry with paper towels. Brush lamb with lemon juice, then olive oil, then massage in the herb mixture. Using a thin paring knife, cut deep slits 1 inch apart all over the leg. Stuff each slit with a sliver of garlic and rosemary leaves. (Note: This can be done a day in advance and kept refrigerated.)

Let leg warm on kitchen counter for 3 hours before cooking. Meanwhile, heat oven to 275 degrees.

Position leg on a rack in a roasting pan, and roast until an instant-read thermometer reads 130 degrees for medium-rare or 140 for medium (about 2 1/2 hours depending on your oven). Remove from oven. The roast will look gray and uninspiring.

Tent with foil, and let rest for 15 minutes. Meanwhile, heat oven to its highest setting. Remove foil and return roast to oven. Cook until well-browned, 10 to 15 minutes. Now it will look beautiful and be packed with crusty flavor.

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