April 5th, 2012
02:00 PM ET
Share this on:

The traditional Easter table generally centers around one of two meats: you're either Team Lamb or Team Ham.

The lamb is a cross-cultural symbol for spring. The sacrificed lamb is a key element of the Passover Seder, and in Christianity, Jesus is referred to as the Lamb of God, slain then resurrected.

In Greek culture, lamb is the king of all animals when it comes to feasting. The standard preparation involves spit-roasting the whole animal, but in case you don't have 27 first cousins to invite over, Chef Michael Psilakis wants to give you a leg up.

For those feeling sheepish about cooking lamb, venture in with Psilakis's stuffed and roasted leg of lamb. He says the Mediterranean flavors of the stuffing help tone down the gamey nature of the meat.

"Americans were afraid of lamb for a long time because of the smell. When it’s roasting, it has this very gamey smell that a lot of people have an issue with that. They're offended by it," says Psilakis.

This recipe will have skeptics and fans alike flocking toward lamb.

Roasted Leg of Lamb
Serves 6 or more, family-style



  • 1 1/2 cups large, plump sun-dried tomatoes, roughly chopped
  • 1/4 cup oil-cured black olives, pitted
  • 1 small sweet onion, charred (optional)
  • 1 roasted red pepper (optional; if you use peppers from jar, be sure to drain)
  • 1 teaspoon minced rosemary
  • Leaves only from 3 small sprigs thyme
  • 1 teaspoon dry Greek oregano
  • 1 Tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 15 cloves garlic confit (recipe below), or 5 cloves raw garlic
  • 3 Tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 1/2 Tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • About 1 teaspoon cracked black pepper


  • 3 to 3 1/2 pound boneless leg of lamb, butterflied to flatten, some of the fat trimmed off
  • Kosher salt and cracked black pepper
  • Extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • 1 Tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 2 to 3 cloves garlic confit, or 1 raw garlic clove
  • 3 large sprigs rosemary
  • 3 Tablespoons blended oil (90 percent canola, 10 percent extra-virgin olive)

Cooking Directions

  1. In a food processor, combine all of the ingredients for the stuffing and purée to a smooth, thick paste, about 45 to 60 seconds. Reserve about 2 tablespoons of the stuffing.
  2. Lay the lamb out on a work surface with the fattier side down. Season generously with kosher salt and pepper and spread an even layer of stuffing over it, pressing the stuffing down into the crevices.
  3. Drizzle with a little olive oil and roll the lamb up in a spiral, seasoning the fatty side with salt and pepper as you roll.
  4. Tie in 4 or 5 places crosswise (twist the string around itself 3 times instead of just once before you pull it tight, so it won't loosen as soon as you let go).
  5. Ideally, allow the meat to sit on a rack, uncovered, in the refrigerator overnight, to dry the surface well and develop all the Greek flavors.
  6. Bring the lamb to room temperature while you preheat the oven to 375°F.
  7. In a small roasting pan, whisk the reserved stuffing with the water, mustard and garlic.
  8. Throw in the rosemary sprigs.
  9. Place a rack in the pan; the rack should not touch the liquid.
  10. Again, season the lamb on all sides very generously with kosher salt and pepper.
  11. In a large, heavy skillet, warm the oil over medium-high heat. When the oil is very hot, sear the lamb well on all sides, using tongs and leaning the meat up against the sides of the pan to sear the thinner sides and cut ends.
  12. Transfer the lamb to the rack seam-side up and roast for about 1 hour, basting every 15 minutes with the pan liquid. (When the meat is medium-rare - 140°F - a skewer inserted at the thickest point should feel warm when pressed against your lower lip.)
  13. Rest the meat for about 15 minutes. Slice 1/4-inch thick pieces, drizzle with the pan sauce, and finish with the extra-virgin olive oil.

Garlic Confit
Makes 3 cups


  • 3 cups garlic cloves, peeled
  • 1 fresh bay leaf or 2 dried leaves
  • 8 to 10 sprigs fresh thyme
  • Kosher salt and whole black peppercorns
  • About 2 cups blended oil (50 percent canola, 50 percent extra-virgin olive), as needed

Cooking Directions

  1. Put the garlic cloves in a heavy, covered braising pan or Dutch oven. Add the bay leaf and thyme, a scant tablespoon kosher salt, and 15 or 20 black peppercorns. Barely cover with the oil.
  2. Cover the pan and braise in a 300°F oven until the cloves are pale golden and very tender, about 1 hour to 1 hour and 15 minutes. Cool it to room temperature.
  3. Transfer the garlic and all of the oil to a sterilized jar. Press a square of plastic wrap down directly onto the surface of the oil. Place another square of plastic over the rim of the jar and twist on the lid or secure with a rubber band. With every use, replace the square of plastic that touches the oil and use a perfectly clean fork or tongs each time to prevent cross-contamination from other surfaces in your kitchen.
  4. As long as the cloves are covered with oil, they will last for at least 3 weeks in the refrigerator.
Posted by:
Filed under: Bite • Easter • Greek • Holidays • Make • Step-by-Step

Next entry »
« Previous entry
soundoff (101 Responses)
  1. Samuel Getaneh Bogale Calgary Alberta

    What a great Easter recipe. Lamb is a family favorite. Thanks for sharing!

    April 12, 2012 at 4:03 pm |
  2. Yoda

    Jdizz...where you been ???

    April 9, 2012 at 9:54 am |
  3. Takin' Easter back from the Christians

    I find it rather ironic that Christians would eat lamb, given it's comparison to Jesus. By the way, Easter is not a Christian holiday.It was stolen from the Romans, who in turn stole it form the Germanic peoples. The goddess Eostre represented Spring and fertility, and that's where the name came from. Booyah Christians!

    April 8, 2012 at 8:56 pm |
    • Bob

      Every modern religion has their origin in ancient (often "pagan") ceremonies and rituals. In 1000 years, christianity, judaism, and islam will have as much relevance in the world as the Greek and Roman gods do today.

      April 9, 2012 at 8:34 am |
    • Jay

      Thank you for a sane POV, Bob. The more we learn, the less religious we become.

      April 9, 2012 at 8:46 am |
    • This is a food blog...

      Kindly leave your Christophobia at the door...

      April 9, 2012 at 10:32 am |
  4. Linda

    We raise lots of grassfed lamb. They romp on the pastures, have all they want to drink, lots of fun time outside to eat and wander. A great life. And, believe me, if you eat a fish, you are eating at the same intelligence level when you eat lamb. They have a 'school' mentality, are not pets, and are perfectly capable of running you over, breaking your knees, and stomping you, en masse. Only reason they get born is so they can be eaten. Really, take it from a farmer. They need care year round, and pay back is the mmmm factor.

    April 8, 2012 at 8:19 pm |
    • Gosh

      Gosh, Linda, do these lambs come into your house to harm you? Are they deliberately chasing after you to hurt your knees? Is that why they have to be eaten? It sounds like you are far more dangerous to the lambs than they are to you, LOL.

      April 10, 2012 at 9:46 am |
  5. food mom

    In Egypt, the Jews were instructed to paint the mantel above the door with lamb's blood, so that the Angel of Death would pass over the house and not kill the firstborn son. I don't think that God would have wanted all that wonderful meat to go to waste. I also don't think that wheatgrass juice would have done the trick.

    April 8, 2012 at 11:31 am |
  6. SixDegrees

    "When the meat is medium-rare – 140°F – a skewer inserted at the thickest point should feel warm when pressed against your lower lip."

    I'd take issue with this advice. 140° is painfully hot, enough so to cause burns. It's the 21st century – use a thermometer.

    April 8, 2012 at 8:59 am |
  7. sir_ken_g

    Roast Chinese Duck!

    April 8, 2012 at 8:48 am |
  8. Symera

    Yia sou, Michael!! But I'm not sure about the sundried tomatoes – yiayia just used garlic, parsley, salt/pepper/oregano and feta. But hey – we were just simple farm people ... regardless – Xristos anesti ;-)

    April 7, 2012 at 8:00 pm |
  9. Edward

    Smoked Pork Shoulder, Grilled Chicken and Sausage!!!!

    April 7, 2012 at 1:10 pm |
  10. harnair

    Let us make this a compassionate Easter http://www.thehindu.com/opinion/op-ed/article3288140.ece?homepage=true

    April 7, 2012 at 5:03 am |
  11. hawaiiankine

    I had bacon and shellfish for passover! NOMNOM!

    April 6, 2012 at 11:51 pm |
  12. Craig from Pa.

    I love animals....they're delicious!!

    April 6, 2012 at 7:58 pm |
  13. ForReal

    Kudos to you Chef Psilakis for being - what comes across as– a savvy, contemporary, and relevant chef with the common sense to stick to an Old World mentality when it comes to roasting meat. It's recipes like these that remind me that I am not a vegetarian, though I can respect that decision.

    This is the kind of food that I can spend part of the morning, and most of the afternoon preparing on a lazy spring day. Open the wine, put on the music, play some cards, and wait for dinner. Total win.

    April 6, 2012 at 7:02 pm |
  14. Pedro Papito Medrano Ramirez Gonzales Schlong

    Cabrito, Baby !!

    April 6, 2012 at 3:48 pm |
  15. Love it

    I wish my family was making lamb, though I like my more simply prepared. Grandma is making a ham (which I'm sure I will be delicious), but now all I want is lamb!

    April 6, 2012 at 1:43 pm |
    • Lamb Chop®

      have you seen my show......... why would you want to eat me ; ;

      April 6, 2012 at 1:57 pm |
      • Jdizzle McHammerpants ♫♫

        Yeah, sock is dry.

        April 6, 2012 at 2:00 pm |
        • Love it

          Jdizzle- You crack me up!

          April 6, 2012 at 2:06 pm |
        • Big McLargehuge

          Not after you're done with that sock it isn't. O.o

          April 8, 2012 at 1:36 am |
      • AleeD®@Lamb Chop®

        Your show has been off the air for quite some time now. Prepared properly, your namesake is tasty and good with rosemary. That's why I would eat you.

        April 6, 2012 at 2:05 pm |
      • bugsy

        just reading this left me licking my chops!

        April 6, 2012 at 3:37 pm |
  16. Lamb Chop®

    ...........oh, crap.............

    April 6, 2012 at 1:15 pm |
    • Sherri Lewis@Lamb Chop

      Such language-I always held you to a Higher Standard.

      April 6, 2012 at 1:19 pm |
      • Lamb Chop®

        oh, fiddle sticks?!?

        April 6, 2012 at 1:42 pm |
  17. Anna

    Forzen dinner..

    April 6, 2012 at 12:58 pm |
  18. wendles

    Barbaric....It amuses me to see all these folks seeing themselves as "oh so sophisticated"....a LAMB...absolutely no
    COMPASSION.EMPATHY....shame on all o you

    April 6, 2012 at 12:07 pm |
    • Nonny Mouse

      It's impossible to live without causing the death of something else. Death feeds life; life necessitates death. Life and death are not opposites, they create and support each other. This is the way it is. It does not mean predators do not respect their prey.

      April 6, 2012 at 12:36 pm |
    • Obligate Carnivore

      Yes, yes, yes, Wendles. We get it! You're a wonderful vegetarian and never hurt a flea. We're all barbaric, murderous atavisms crouched over a haunch of lamb killed in the most inhumane manner possible. We get it! Now s h u t u p ! ! !

      April 6, 2012 at 1:02 pm |
      • wendles

        if you are going to eat lamb.....just don't ignore the piece of animal in front of you....see it ...feel it ...then enjoy eating it

        April 6, 2012 at 1:06 pm |
        • Obligate Carnivore

          I have a friend whose wife is Vegan. When they were coming over, she warned me that she "could never eat anything with a face."

          I served oysters.

          April 6, 2012 at 1:08 pm |
        • Nonny Mouse

          Yep, I sure will. I accord with the way things are. I am one with the harmony of nature. Tasty, tasty nature.

          April 6, 2012 at 1:34 pm |
    • tasty@wendles

      If you tasted like lamb, I would roast you on a spit over an open flame in an instant.

      April 6, 2012 at 2:16 pm |
      • wendles

        why such rage?

        April 6, 2012 at 6:28 pm |
        • Wendles is a dum dum

          Really??? go back and read your own post!

          April 6, 2012 at 7:26 pm |
  19. George Stepinotalopalapalopalpoalous

    We Greeks are too broke to have a fancy dinner

    April 6, 2012 at 11:55 am |
    • wendles

      may I suggest a healthy meal of veggies and grains....your family will live a longer and healthier life....and will not have contributed to the suffering and trauma of another living creature

      April 6, 2012 at 12:12 pm |
      • Nonny Mouse

        Veggies and grains are living things too. Just because you don't see yourself in them does not mean they are not alive.

        April 6, 2012 at 12:37 pm |
        • wendles

          I only know I can look into the eyes a a lamb and into the eyes of my dog and cat

          April 6, 2012 at 1:07 pm |
        • Sir Biddle@Wendles

          Don't go to Jdizz's house as he is serving cat on Sunday.

          April 6, 2012 at 1:25 pm |
        • Nonny Mouse

          wendles, so can I. Just because you're guilt-ridden about the natural order of things doesn't mean everyone else is.

          April 6, 2012 at 1:35 pm |
        • food mom

          wendles, do you eat potatoes? they have eyes....

          April 8, 2012 at 11:40 am |
      • LML

        Actually, with Greeks traditionally being Orthodox, many spent the six weeks leading up to Easter eating grains, fruits, and vegetables - but nothing from animals. Such is the prescribed lenten diet in the Orthodox church - the same as it's been for centuries. Easter being the Feast of Feasts and Festival of Festivals, some good old fashioned lamb is certainly appropriate. Moderation in all things we eat, right? Modern dietetic theories have nothing on what we received from the Fathers of the Church...

        April 6, 2012 at 12:41 pm |
        • wendles

          There are theories that Jesus was a member of a group called the Essenes...vegetarians all....

          April 6, 2012 at 1:09 pm |
        • Jesus

          Nope! I love a good party, and don't get me started on Mom's roast lamb. Oh. my. Dad. It melts in your mouth!

          See you later!

          April 6, 2012 at 1:34 pm |
        • Castle, Wendell

          There are also theories that Jesus married a prostitute, but no one wants to talk about that either.

          April 6, 2012 at 1:35 pm |
        • Mary Magdalene

          There are also theories that Jesus married a pros ti tute, but no one wants to talk about that either.

          April 6, 2012 at 1:37 pm |
      • JR

        Those defenseless little fruits and veggies you're advocating we eat also have a life vibration, a consciousness that you snuff out when you harvest them for your table. How is that different from harvesting an animal for the dinner table. Just because you can't hear it when you pluck the carrot from the ground doesn't mean it isn't screaming in pain. So be a veg if you want to be...but realize that what other people eat is really none of your business. The only thing more obnoxious than a newly quit smoker is a vegetarian who proselytizes.

        April 6, 2012 at 1:56 pm |
      • gma94


        April 6, 2012 at 3:38 pm |
        • Good Morning America, 1994?

          Ah. School's out I see.

          April 6, 2012 at 3:41 pm |
  20. csnord

    Our traditional Easter protein is rabbit. No kidding. We eat the Easter Bunny.

    April 6, 2012 at 11:43 am |
    • Sick Humorist

      I thought I was the only one that did that. Ahhhh, the sounds of the children gasping when you tell them what they're eating. Priceless memories!

      April 6, 2012 at 12:58 pm |
    • Jesus

      We eat delicious smoked ham.

      April 6, 2012 at 9:56 pm |
  21. luckyponytoo

    I'm lucky...I'm getting lamb and ham...yum! It's too bad lamb is so expensive–it is a great meat and a common item just about anywhere but in the US.

    April 6, 2012 at 11:06 am |
    • Nonny Mouse

      Yeah, I sure wish my family liked lamb. But no one does but me. Oh well, I make a lovely herbed ham.

      April 6, 2012 at 12:38 pm |
    • bassman

      Here, too. I just finished making the spiced lamb, and our friends will be making two hams. It's going to be a crowd :-) Happy Holiday!

      April 7, 2012 at 2:21 pm |
  22. Love To Cook

    This year my family is unable to come to my table, so no lamb but a friend of mine is coming and we are going to have a 11/2 lb. lobster. I will steam it and have a baked potato and salad on the side. Sounds good to me but will miss the fanfare of a beautiful rolled leg of lamb.

    April 6, 2012 at 9:56 am |
    • wendles

      yum....canabalism, anyone?

      April 6, 2012 at 12:08 pm |
      • Witch is it?

        What are you that eating lobster sparks a snarky comment about cannibalism?
        Or did you mean cabalism and this just took a strange turn?

        April 6, 2012 at 1:05 pm |
    • wendles

      oops cannibalism....correct spelling...I do have a Masters Degree after all

      April 6, 2012 at 12:10 pm |
      • Smart Guy

        Mee two. Meet eeters make mee sik.

        April 6, 2012 at 1:30 pm |
      • Meat Eater

        If someone is attending a party, how can they find out if any vegans are also attending?

        Don't worry they let you know!

        Oh, and holders of a Masters Degree, too.

        April 7, 2012 at 4:11 pm |
      • Meat Eater

        If someone is attending a party, how can they find out if any vegans are also attending?

        Don't worry they'll let you know!

        Oh, and holders of a Masters Degree, too.

        April 7, 2012 at 4:12 pm |
  23. Jerv

    A little too much garlic for me but photo # 11 looks wonderful.

    April 6, 2012 at 8:28 am |
  24. Sun

    My mother was Italian, we always had lasagne and home made Italian sausage,

    April 6, 2012 at 8:10 am |
  25. Mary

    Having both lamb and ham, of course!
    But I do have a problem: my sister, who usually hosts family dinners, and several of her children cannot eat garlic or onion. Anyone have suggestions to substitute for the garlic?

    April 6, 2012 at 7:38 am |
    • Evil Uncle

      More garlic.

      April 6, 2012 at 1:37 pm |
    • Sir Biddle@Mary

      Substitue the children NOT the garlic!

      April 6, 2012 at 1:40 pm |
    • Garlic

      Can't or won't? If the latter – then as the other guy said whose name I am too lazy to scroll up and double check is right: more garlic.

      That took more effort that scrolling up didn't it?

      April 6, 2012 at 2:44 pm |
      • Mary

        They really can't have garlic. Makes it hard to cook for them. I love, love, love garlic.

        April 6, 2012 at 10:04 pm |
    • Rosemary

      Use lots of rosemary instead.

      April 6, 2012 at 3:13 pm |
    • Ganipati

      Asafoetida also known as Hing, has an oniony garlicky flavor.. Resin from a wild Fennel plant.. Uncooked the aroma is powerful, giving it another name Devils Dung...

      April 6, 2012 at 8:39 pm |
      • Mary

        Thanks. I was thinking about adding a little asafoetida. I use it in Indian dishes & like it. I've even developed an enjoyment of its smell. Has anyone actually tried it with lamb? I don't think I'd marinate in it, but I may cook up a little in some olive oil & baste with it. Thanks for the idea.

        April 6, 2012 at 10:08 pm |
  26. Sebastian

    Let us try and get one thing straight. Saying "It's Greek to me" is racist plain and simple. The use of the term Greek for something foreign or unintelligible derives from a characterization of early immigrants to America as people so different they as a people along with their beliefs and actions had to be identified as something completely different.

    April 6, 2012 at 3:18 am |
    • Nick, the Greek

      What you're saying makes no sense. It's all Greek to me.

      April 6, 2012 at 6:43 am |
    • VladT

      Technically, they would be stereotyping a prejudicial belief. Greeks are not a race, so it cannot be racist

      April 6, 2012 at 7:53 am |
      • Zorn

        "Ethnically insulting," then.

        April 6, 2012 at 9:23 am |
        • Sir Biddle@Zorn

          Ben....Is that you?!?!?

          April 6, 2012 at 9:28 am |
        • Mothra

          If one's native language was Greek and someone else spoke only English to them, should insult be taken if they said, "It's all American/British/Australian, etc. to me"? I certainly don't think so.

          April 6, 2012 at 9:33 am |
    • Sun

      Get off your PC high horse. I've heard that from more Greek people that you actually know.

      April 6, 2012 at 8:09 am |
    • @Sebastian

      "It's Greek to me," actually refers to the ancient Greek language. Here is your gold star for effort.

      April 6, 2012 at 8:25 am |
    • Willie Shakes

      Hey! I resent that!!!

      CASSIUS: Did Cicero say any thing?
      CASCA: Ay, he spoke Greek.
      CASSIUS: To what effect?
      CASCA: Nay, an I tell you that, I'll ne'er look you i' the face again: but those that understood him smiled at one another and shook their heads; but, for mine own part, it was Greek to me. I could tell you more news too: Marullus and Flavius, for pulling scarfs off Caesar's images, are put to silence. Fare you well. There was more foolery yet, if I could remember it.

      (William Shakespeare, The Tragedy of Julius Caesar (1599))

      April 6, 2012 at 1:04 pm |
      • The Smart Aleck

        Then you've sent this before?

        April 6, 2012 at 1:07 pm |
        • Willie Shakes

          Nice pun! Well played!

          April 6, 2012 at 1:42 pm |
  27. batgirl

    Probably whatever Luby's is serving on Sunday after church.

    April 5, 2012 at 11:51 pm |
  28. Ekaterina

    Wow, what is wrong with a simple lamb recipe? How can you have a greek-style lamb without lemon? For those wanting an easy lamb recipe, mix 1 cup lemon juice with 1 cup olive oil and 4-6 tablespoons of minced garlic. Place leg of lamb in a foil-lined roasting pan and cover with lemon/oil mixture. Sprinkle with parsley and cover tightly with foil. Cook at 325-350 for ~20 minutes per pound until desired level of rareness.

    April 5, 2012 at 10:05 pm |
    • Sophia

      Efchadistau Ekaterina, enna poli kalau. Christos Anesti

      April 6, 2012 at 4:23 am |
      • cloudswinger

        Looks like Greek to me!

        April 6, 2012 at 9:11 am |
      • Ekaterina

        Alithos Anesti!

        April 6, 2012 at 12:59 pm |
        • Calendar

          Too soon – you don't say that until the 15th.

          April 6, 2012 at 2:46 pm |
    • Nonny Mouse

      That sounds terrific!

      April 6, 2012 at 12:39 pm |
    • Eman de Riuqer

      Thank YOU, Ekaterina! :) I read the story and thought, gosh, that sounds good but is WAAAY too hard and time consuming. As a single guy, I have neither the time nor inclination to spend hours preparing something I will wolf down in 10 minutes or less. I have only recently reached the point in my life where I can tolerate spending more time preparing than eating... (it was canned soup, fast food, and ramen noodles for years!) but college is over, work is done, and I'm retired now. I have only recently started cooking for myself, for real, again, first time in years... and wanted to try something with lamb. So thanks again for posting this simple recipe, I may try it when I run out of chicken, when next I go shopping if I can find some good-looking lean lamb. May have to go straight to the butcher. (At least one grocery I visited recently did not have ANY lamb for sale, for some reason.) I have had a long running, mild infatuation with Greek food ever since trying it at a restaurant in SoCal, (can't recall the name,) that had this amazing, delicious chicken soup with lemon. Thought it sounded odd but I tried it and loved it. Mediter-yummian!

      Anyway, thanks again!

      April 8, 2012 at 4:26 pm |
  29. Jdizzle McHammerpants ♫♫

    We're having the neighbor's cat for dinner that day.

    April 5, 2012 at 6:58 pm |
    • Sir Biddle@Jdizz

      Now there is the Jdizz humor I miss!

      April 6, 2012 at 11:17 am |
    • wendles

      agree....eating lamb takes the same degree of awareness....doggie stew anyone?

      April 6, 2012 at 12:15 pm |
      • food mom

        When I was opening my second store, the electrician and I struck up a conversation. I was annoyed as the Chinese restaurant would have morning food deliveries sitting outside the back door, as no one was there to accept them (food danger). He laughed, and told me the story of a chinese restaurant that was shut down by the health department, as the cooks were catching all the neighborhood cats and using them for employee meals (some idiot was throwing the remains in the community dumpster). He told me that in its place was now a Mexican restaurant. I asked if any of the neighborhood dogs were going missing. We had a hearty laugh. True story.

        April 8, 2012 at 11:37 am |
  30. Truth™

    When Mary Shannon and I were growing up, some good friends of our family did a full Greek Orthodox Easter dinner every year. I still remember the foods and traditions from those meals. Great memories there!

    April 5, 2012 at 3:47 pm |
Next entry »
« Previous entry
| Part of

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 9,974 other followers