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Roasted Leg of Lamb with Dried Cherry, Mustard & Herb Crust

Scott Phillips

Servings: 8-10

In Tuscany, we traditionally serve a whole roast leg of lamb for spring celebrations: Easter, a wedding engagement, a baptism. The meat is rich and flavorful and, of course, when you roast a whole leg, there’s plenty for everyone gathered around the table. This roast is coated with a crust of dried cherries and herbs that’s a delicious complement to the flavor of the meat


  • 6- to 7-lb. bone-in leg of lamb
  • 4 cloves garlic, cut lengthwise into quarters
  • Kosher salt
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 cups (10 to 11 oz.) dried sweet cherries, soaked in 1 cup hot water for 30 minutes
  • 1/2 cup (1 oz.) fresh white breadcrumbs
  • 2 Tbs. Dijon mustard
  • 1 Tbs. coarsely chopped fresh rosemary
  • 1 Tbs. coarsely chopped fresh sage
  • 1 tsp. freshly cracked black pepper
  • 2 medium carrots, peeled, halved lengthwise, and cut into 2-inch lengths
  • 2 ribs celery, halved lengthwise and cut into 2-inch lengths
  • 1 medium yellow onion, peeled and quartered
  • 1-1/2 cups sweet red vermouth, such as Martini & Rossi
  • 1-1/2 cups homemade or low-salt beef or chicken broth

Nutritional Information

  • Nutritional Sample Size based on ten servings
  • Calories (kcal) : 450
  • Fat Calories (kcal): 140
  • Fat (g): 16
  • Saturated Fat (g): 4
  • Polyunsaturated Fat (g): 1
  • Monounsaturated Fat (g): 9
  • Cholesterol (mg): 115
  • Sodium (mg): 610
  • Carbohydrates (g): 28
  • Fiber (g): 3
  • Protein (g): 40


  • Position a rack in the lower middle of the oven and heat the oven to 450°F. Trim any excess fat from the lamb. With the point of a knife, make 16 slits all over the lamb and insert a sliver of garlic into each slit. Sprinkle 1 tsp. salt over the meat.
  • Turn on the exhaust fan. Heat 2 Tbs. of the oil in a large, heavy flameproof roasting pan over medium-high heat. When the pan is hot, sear the roast until browned lightly on at least the two widest sides. Transfer the meat to a tray or platter and then carefully pour the hot fat out of the pan.
  • Put the dried cherries with their soaking liquid, the breadcrumbs, mustard, rosemary, sage, 1 tsp. salt, the pepper, and the remaining 2 Tbs. oil in a food processor and pulse to make a coarse, wet paste. Scatter the carrots, celery, and onion in the roasting pan to make a bed for the lamb. Put about a third of the cherry paste onto the bottom of the roast (the wide side closest to the bone). Set the roast bottom side down on the vegetables. Pat the remaining paste evenly on the rest of the lamb. Put the pan in the oven and set a timer for 25 min.
  • After 25 min., lower the heat to 375°F and roast until the temperature at the thickest part of the meat is 125° to 130°F for medium rare, another 35 to 45 min. (or longer if you prefer medium or well-done lamb). Check the roast periodically to be sure the cherry crust isn’t getting too dark; if it is, drape a piece of foil loosely over the lamb. Transfer the meat to a carving board or serving platter. Cover the lamb with a sheet of aluminum foil (not too tight, or the meat will steam) and let rest for 10 min.
  • Meanwhile, set the roasting pan over two burners on medium high, leaving the carrots, celery, onion and any fallen-off crust in the pan. Add the sweet vermouth and broth. Stir and scrape the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon and let the liquid simmer until it reduces to about 1 cup of slightly thickened sauce, 8 to 10 min. Season the sauce with salt and pepper to taste. Pour the sauce through a fine sieve into a serving bowl. Stir and gently press on the solids in the sieve to free the sauce, but don’t break up the solids or force them through the sieve. Discard the solids.
  • To serve the lamb, carve 1/2-inch slices, discarding the garlic pieces as you come across them. Some of the flavorful crust will fall off while you carve–just spoon it up and serve it alongside the meat. Arrange the sliced lamb on a large serving platter or individual plates and drizzle with the sauce.


Choose a whole leg of lamb covered with firm, creamy-white fat. (Crumbly, brittle, yellowish fat is a sign of age.) Before you take the leg home, ask the butcher to trim off most of the visible fat, but to leave the shank end on.


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Reviews (2 reviews)

  • maryokeefe | 05/17/2018

    I made this dish for a special luncheon party for dear friends. It was a huge hit. The crust has such an unusual flavour combination which also contributed to a delectable sauce. I served the lamb with a fennel and tomato gratin (Yottam Ottelenghi recipe) and an arugula salad with roasted asparagus and a lemon vinaigrette, followed by a lemon tart for dessert. Our guests loved the meal. Thank you, Fine Cooking, for the inspiration.

  • TastingRm | 03/22/2008

    This is an excellent recipe that is a cinch to prep yet makes for a sophisticated presentation. It's a crowd-pleaser and has become part of our family Easter dinner tradition.To prevent the drippings from burning, it helps to put 1/2 cup water or broth in the bottom of the pan toward the end of the cooking time.

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