End of work week dinners are tricky. There aren’t that many things left in a fridge. In addition, I feel particularly lazy on Friday nights, looking for any excuse to get out of laboring in the kitchen. As a result, more often than not we end up waiting in line at some restaurant to get our fix of steak and veggie.
I raided the freezer this morning in a hope to “design” tonight’s dinner and found a whole boneless leg of lamb. Typically, I use lamb to cook plov, a robust, comforting and fragrant rice pilaf. But I had to be in the kitchen for an hour to make that, and I wasn’t in the mood. I figured, roasting will be the fastest thing to do. As for the side dish, I found an oldish cabbage head in the corner of the fridge and a handful of baby carrots. What can be easier than braised cabbage? So the Friday night looked very promising at that point, and we were delivered from waiting in line to eat steak again.
There are crazy many ways to roast a leg of lamb, but basic rules are always same. Rub some spices/herbs/oil on the meat, sprinkle liberally with salt and fresh ground pepper, roast on high temperature until well browned all over, and then finish roasting at lower temperature, until desired doneness level is almost reached. At that point, rest the meat on a board, where it will reach the final temperature, and carve. So I did just that. I always have some kind of herbs in my fridge, so today it was thyme, rosemary and sage. I added a few cloves of garlic to the rub, because I love garlic.
Braised cabbage was an old time favorite in my family. We enjoyed it with a dollop of sour cream (we just put sour cream on everything, don’t we) and a slice of crusty bread. It can be a main course, if you make it with pork loin, chicken, or even duck. I love it for beautiful color, sweet flavor and, you guessed it, minimal effort put in.
Roasted Lamb & Braised Cabbage
For roasted lamb:
- 1 boneless lag of lamb (about 4-5 lbs)
- 3-4 tbsp chopped mixed herbs, I used sage, rosemary and thyme
- 4-5 cloves of garlic, chopped
- 2-3 tbsp olive oil
- salt and fresh ground black pepper, not too fine
- 1/2 cup of wine or stock (optional)
For braised cabbage:
- 2-3 thick slices of bacon or an equal amount of salt pork, you can skip the bacon and use 2-3 tbsp butter or oil instead
- 1 small to medium head of cabbage, shredded
- 2-3 medium carrots, peeled and sliced (I used about 1 cup of baby carrots)
- 1 large onion, halved and thinly sliced
- 1-1/2 cups of stock or water
- 3 tbsp tomato paste
- 1 large bay leaf
- 3-4 allspice berries
- 2-3 sprigs of fresh thyme
- 16 grape tomatoes, halved (this is optional, I was just looking for ways to utilize them)
- salt and pepper to taste
Set the oven to 475°F.
Chop mixed herbs and garlic quite finely. Mix with olive oil in a bowl. Sprinkle salt and fresh ground black pepper all over the lamb leg. Drizzle some olive oil on a bottom of a roasting pan, place the leg in it and turn a few times to coat. Spread the herbs and oil mix over the top of the meat.
Roast for 30 minutes at 475°F. Turn the temperature down to 375°F, and roast for about 30-40 minutes or until almost done to your satisfaction. During the lower temperature roast, you can baste the leg with small amounts of wine or stock, every 15 minutes or so. This is optional. Remove the leg from the oven and set on a board to rest.
While lamb is roasting, prepare the cabbage.
Chop slices of bacon into small strips or dice. Heat the dutch oven or a heavy bottom pot, toss in the bacon bits and render the fat, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking and burning.
When bacon is nicely browned, add onions at first, stir a few times, and cook for a minute or so, until they release juice. Add carrots and saute for another 1-2 minutes.
Add all cabbage at once. Pour about 3/4 cup of stock (or water) into the pot and cover. The steam from stock will wilt the cabbage in a few minutes.
Stir all vegetables very well until nicely mixed, add thyme, bay leaf and allspice. I added my halved grape tomatoes at this point. Season to taste. Stir again and cover. Cook until cabbage is translucent but not yet mushy, about 10 minutes. Check once or twice to be sure stock hasn’t run out. If so, add some more liquid.
Mix tomato paste with the remaining stock or water and pour into the pot. Stir very well, cover and cook another 5 minutes or so, until cabbage turns golden brown from tomato paste.