As some of you may know, I'm participating in the week of eating in challenge this week, which means I'm supposed to eat in for 7 straight days. Simple right? Well, if you have a job with unpredictably long hours and an evening schedule filled with freelance writing and photography gigs, it's actually more challenging than it sounds.
I had one of those days at work today that was gobbled up by time hungry meetings. The last one was a four hour humdinger, which left me feeling drained, and delayed my arrival home by nearly two hours. This wouldn't normally be much of an issue, except I'd planned on making a roast tonight. I'm sure you're falling out of your seat laughing at me for planning such an ambitious meal on a weeknight, but I had a defrosted lamb roast in the fridge which bah'ed "coohook meehee" every time I opened the door.
The lamb was a gorgeous one and a half pound top round sent over by the nice folks at Lava Lake Lamb, a great grass-fed outfit that makes some of the best American lamb I've ever had. For those that aren't familiar with a top round, it's the the most tender cut from the hind leg, which is both flavourful and lean. It's great for steaks and roasts and I had high hopes of doing a slow roast in a cool oven and serving it with a cauliflower gratin and a mint gelée.
Since i didn't have time to stop at the store, the cauliflower was out, and the slow roast would have had me eating after midnight. To save time, I decided to adapt my method of making steaks and seared the whole top round in a cast iron skillet before throwing it in the oven to finish roasting. It turned out gorgeously and I'm not sure I'd do it any differently next time. Since the lamb doesn't marinate, it's important to be very generous with the rub so the roast gets a nice thick crust of salt.
Since a gelée needs to be strained and cooled, I opted for an updated version of a classic mint sauce, that provides a nice sweet and tangy counterpoint to the salty crust. The fresh mint also plays nicely with the minerally red lamb that would make the staunchest lamb nay-sayer reconsider their stand.
I served this quick roast lamb with a smear of my cheesy potatoes. The yukon gold potatoes are boiled whole, until they're tender. While the potatoes are cooking, I grate a generous amount of cheese (I used asiago this time) into a bowl. When the potatoes are tender, I just pass them through a ricer which not only mashes them, but peels them at the same time. After the cheese is mixed in, I add cream until the potatoes are at a consistency I like, then season them with salt as needed.
This whole meal took only 40 minutes to make and I was sitting down to this gorgeous plate by 8:10.
For mint sauce
- Remove the lamb from the refrigerator about an hour before starting to bring it up to room temperature.
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Put the salt, black pepper, fennel and cumin in a spice grinder, or use a mortar and pestle to roughly grind
- Rub the outside of the lamb with the grated garlic. Then sprinkle about half the rub onto one side of the lamb in a relatively thick layer. Heat a cast iron skillet over medium heat until very hot. Add a splash of oil and put the lamb, seasoned side down. Sprinkle the remaining rub on the other side of the lamb. Fry until golden brown (about 5-6 minutes) then flip. Put the pan in the oven and cook until an instant read thermometer reads 135 degrees F for rare (15-20 minutes). Remove the pan form the oven and let it sit uncovered for 15 minutes. This relaxes the proteins in the meat allowing the juices to reabsorb into the fibers, which keeps the meat moist when you cut it.
- Put all the ingredients for the mint sauce in a blender or food processor and puree.
- Slice up the roast lamb and serve with the mint sauce.