With Christmas fast approaching, one of the things on your mind might be a special and unique meal to serve your loved ones. A leg of lamb for Christmas is not only traditional, it’s absolutely show-stopping! It’s very common to marinate lamb in yogurt and milk and buttermilk. I decided to take that custom a bit further in developing this recipe. I wanted to try out a braise in buttermilk.
To braise something simply means to cook in dry heat, slowly, in liquid. The liquid must cover at least half of the meat. The acid in the buttermilk helps to tenderize the meat as it cooks, and it also helps to mellow any gamey flavors in the meat. We chose an American lamb (raised here in the States on a farm in California) that’s already known for its brilliant, mild flavor, and cooking the meat in buttermilk made it mouth-watering, tender, juicy, and exactly what you’d want to serve during Christmas. The buttermilk helps give a gloss to the top of the roast and the onions that cook in the braising liquid are pure gold with a crispy bite of potato and horseradish cream. I hope that you will try this recipe for your Christmas roast. Merry Christmas & happy holidays from us at Rustic Joyful Food!
Buttermilk Braised Leg of Lamb for Christmas
2 medium-sized onions, sliced
6 cloves of garlic, smashed
2 sprigs fresh rosemary
1 bay leaf
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1/2 tsp. of piment d'espelette**
1 4-5 lb. leg of lamb*
2 cups buttermilk
1 cup water
2 tsp. kosher salt
1 tsp. cracked black pepper
Preheat oven to 325°. Lay sliced onions, garlic, rosemary, and bay leaf in the bottom of an enamel-covered cast iron or Dutch oven. A roasting pan covered tightly with heavy duty foil works as well. Cover onions, garlic, and herbs with olive oil and piment d’esplette. Place lamb on top of onions, fatty side up. Cover with buttermilk, water, salt, and pepper. Cover tightly with a lid and bake for 3-4 hours. Meat will be fork tender and juicy. This lamb can become dry if the braising liquid evaporates. If liquid appears low, add a touch more water. Milk solids in buttermilk will curdle. Skim them off finished braise if desired, though they are perfectly edible. Allow meat to rest in its juices for 15 minutes before slicing. Ladle a bit of onions and broth over top of sliced meat before serving.
* Ours was de-boned, but bone-in would help to keep meat moist. It will weigh another pound with the bone.
** Paprika is a great substitute.
Crispy Olive Oil Potatoes & Horseradish Sour Cream
5 lbs. Yukon gold potatoes, diced into roughly one-inch cubes
1 tsp. kosher or pink Himalayan salt
1/2 tsp. cracked black pepper
1/4 cup olive oil
Preheat oven to 350°. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and spread potatoes evenly on the parchment. Season with salt and pepper and olive oil. Using clean hands or a large spoon, stir to coat each potato with oil. Bake 45-60 minutes until potatoes are crisp and tender.
Horseradish Sour Cream
1 cup sour cream
2 Tbsp. mayonnaise
2 Tbsp. prepared mild horseradish
1/2 garlic clove, smashed and finely diced
Salt and pepper to taste
Mix, then chill for an hour before serving.