#CoronaCooking: Celebrating Spring

I have a big yard; I live in a place where going for walks in the woods is still possible. I’m so lucky—at least, until or if I get sick, with no hospital nearby, and the closest regional one overburdened thanks to an early COVID outbreak. But I’m not sick, so I’m still lucky.

On my last run to the grocery store there wasn’t much chicken or beef to choose from, but there were some beautiful legs of lamb on sale, so I picked one up for “Easter dinner,” which I put in quotation marks because we have no real reason to celebrate a Christian holiday. But it’s a great excuse to celebrate the sun, the awakening garden, the incipient buds on the trees. So lamb, and then some of the ramps (wild leeks) that I picked on a hike on Saturday, and the last of the potatoes and carrots.

The lamb is marinated in Indian spices, yogurt, cashew paste, and—this is the secret to the flavor—fried onions, crumbled up and added to the mix. Remarkably flavorful and easy.

Raan (Indian-style Leg of Lamb)

Serves: many more than we had at our table

1 leg of lamb, bone in, partly deboned, or butterflied (your choice)
1 tsp fennel seed
1 tsp cardamom pods
1 tsp peppercorns
1/2 tsp whole cloves
1/2 cinnamon stick
Handful of cashews or blanched almonds
2 tsp cumin powder
1 TB coriander powder
1 TB Kashmiri chili powder or 1 tsp cayenne and 2 tsp paprika
1 TB kosher salt
5 garlic cloves and 2 inches gingerroot, grated on a microplane or puréed in a miniprocessor
3/4 c plain yogurt (if you use Greek, thin it out with a bit of water)
1/4 c oil
1 large yellow onion, sliced thinly 

1. Make marinade: Grind fennel, cardamom, peppercorns, cloves, and cinnamon in a spice grinder. Place in a small bowl. Grind nuts in spice grinder till sandy. Add to bowl. Add remaining ingredients to bowl. Mix till smooth. 

2. In a sauté pan, heat oil over medium high heat. When it ripples, add the sliced onion. Sauté over medium high heat, stirring at frequent intervals, until the onion is VERY dark brown and slightly crispy. This will take at least 10 minutes, probably closer to 15. When done, drain on paper towels. When somewhat cooled, chop up and add to the marinade. 

3. At least 4 hrs before you plan to put the lamb in the oven, take a sharp knife and score the lamb in a diamond pattern. Place on a rack on a roasting pan (or use a rack in a sheet pan, like I did). With your hands, take the yogurt onion spice paste and slather it all over the lamb—every single side and crevice and slash. Allow to marinate in the fridge loosely covered by plastic film  for at least 4 hrs, and up to 8 hrs. 

4. Two hours before you plan to cook, take the lamb out of the fridge so it can come up to room temp. 

5. When you’re ready to cook, preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Put lamb in oven; carefully add a cup or two of water to the baking tray (this keeps the drippings from burning and creating smoke). Cook until the internal temperature at the deepest part of the leg reads 135 (med rare) or 140 (medium). (My semi-boneless leg took about an hour and a quarter.) When the lamb comes up to temperature, remove it from the oven, tent loosely with foil, and allow to rest for 15 mins or so before carving.