Springtime in my childhood usually included a stop at my hometown’s Ben Franklin store. Just before Easter part of the store was transformed by hot lamps, kiddie swimming pools, and fences. I remember gawking at little live chicks, ducklings, and bunny rabbits. This wasn’t merely a display; these little cuties were for sale!
I can’t remember if I begged for one and was denied, or if I was just smart enough to know there was no chance my mother would let me take home one of these fuzzy pets. Year in and year out, I had to settle for the marshmallow Peeps and chocolate bunnies I found in my Easter basket.
I wasn’t totally deprived of the cute baby spring animal experience. No, my grandaddy had little lambs on his farm. Grandma would mix up special milk in tall glass Pepsi bottles fitted with nipples, and I loved taking them out to feed the lambs whose mommas couldn’t or wouldn’t nurse them. Their surprisingly strong heads would butt against you as they pushed in front of others to fill their bellies. It’s amazing how they could suckle so hard and guzzle that milk down so fast. Sometimes I’d briefly let one nurse on my finger with its rough tongue and super-suction grip.
Back then I didn’t even realize that people ate lamb. We certainly never did. In fact, the first time I tried lamb was when my in-laws prepared a leg of lamb roast for a special holiday meal. I was surprised by the stronger flavor; it does not taste like chicken.
A year or so later, we added lamb to our “special meal” list. One time we had it for Easter dinner, and our children, as children often do, decided since we’d eaten it once for Easter dinner, we must keep the tradition going. We can change up the side dishes or dessert, but I think there might be an outcry and mutiny aboard this ship if we should happen to serve up ham or turkey instead.
If you’ve never tasted lamb, I do recommend it. It has a stronger flavor than chicken, beef, or pork, but it’s nice to have a change once in a while. Sometimes I make a stew or curry with small chunks of lamb, but my favorite is a boneless leg roast, just the way we serve it for Easter dinner. Just remember to use a meat thermometer; since lamb is a more expensive meat, you definitely don’t want to ruin it by overcooking.
Don’t be put off by a lack of exact measurements in this recipe; the amount you need really depends on the size of your roast and how much of a Dijon crust you want on your meat. Buy either bone-in or boneless leg of lamb, but if you buy a boneless roast, please remove the outer plastic covering but leave on whatever the butcher has holding that roast together--either string or a netting. Otherwise, your roast will unroll while cooking; trust me, it’s not pretty.
Clove-Studded Dijon Lamb Roast
1 leg of lamb roast (boneless or bone-in)
1 or 2 jars of Dijon mustard
Preheat oven to 350℉.
Using a paring knife, make a small, deep slit in the lamb and insert one whole clove. Repeat at one-inch intervals all over the roast.
Place your studded roast in a shallow roasting pan and slather it all over rather thickly with the Dijon mustard.
Put your roast in the oven; baste once again with more Dijon about half-way through estimated cooking time. Let the roast cook for about 30 minutes per pound (more or less), depending on your preferred doneness. Recommendations for medium doneness vary from 140℉-150℉. Remove from the oven. Place your roast on a platter and tent with foil; allow roast to rest for 5-10 minutes.
If your roast is boneless, remove any netting or string. This will mean that much of the mustard crust will come off, too. That’s okay. If you like, just scrape some of the mustard off of the netting and pat it back onto the roast or just serve it up right next to the roast for those who want it. Carve and serve. There’s no need to remove all the cloves; just make sure your guests realize they need to be watchful to remove the cloves themselves.