The paschal lamb is so interwoven with the traditions of Easter and Passover that it would be a shame to serve anything else over the holidays. Luckily for lamb-lovers who are also waistline-watchers, lamb is one of the leanest of meats. The fat-trimmed meat from a roast leg of lamb is only 38 calories an ounce. That's because lamb is a young meat with no fatty marbling needed for tenderness. If you've never served a lamb roast before, here are some clip-and-save directions:
Leg of lamb can be either whole or a half, bone-in or boned, rolled and tied. For best cooking results, use a meat thermometer, inserted in the thickest part, not touching bone. The following slow-roast method is the approved technique for the least shrinkage.
Slow-roast method: Arrange the roast on a rack in an uncovered roasting pan. Put in a cold oven. Set temperature to 325 degrees. Roast the meat uncovered until desired interior temperature is reached:
- 150 degrees for rare
- 160 degrees for medium (pink in the middle)
- 170 degrees for medium-well (still a bit pink)
- 175 to 180 for well-done
Approximate time: A leg of lamb will take about 15 to 20 minutes per pound for rare, up to 30 to 35 minutes per pound for well done. A boneless rolled roast takes longer, about 20 to 25 minutes per pound for rare; up to 35 or 40 minutes per pound for well-done, so arrange your cooking schedule to suit.
French high heat method: Preheat oven to 450 degrees before putting in the lamb in a roasting pan. Roast the lamb uncovered 20 to 25 minutes, until the outside is seared. Lower heat to 325 or 350 degrees. Insert meat thermometer and roast uncovered until inner temperature indicates desired doneness (see above). Cooking time for this method is 20 to 25% less. Lamb cooked this way will be more crusty on the outside, but will shrink more.
Calories: Good news! A 3 1/2-ounce serving of roast leg of lamb, lean only, is only 130 calories.
Lamb leftovers: Lamb is a truly versatile meat, beloved in many cuisines so there's much more to do with leftovers than simply reheating it or serving lamb in sandwiches. Here's a strategy for maximizing use:
- After dinner, separate the meat from the bone. Use the bone to make soup.
- Reserve some lamb for meal-size salads. Dice the lamb and marinate it overnight with salad ingredients (recipe given below).
- Divide the meat into meal-size chunks depending upon family size (allow 3 1/2 to 4 ounces per person). Wrap, label and freeze. Thaw the meat overnight in the refrigerator and slice or dice it into imaginative low-calorie recipes.
- Package meat into meal-size low-calorie heat-and-eat dinners. Use foil pie pans or divided frozen-dinner trays for reheating in the oven, or actual dinner plates or heavy-duty plastic plates for reheating microwave-style. For each dinner, allow 3 1/2 to 4 ounces of thinly sliced lamb. On each plate put two servings of frozen vegetables taken directly from loose-pack bags. (For best results, don't use cooked leftover vegetables in frozen dinners.) Wrap each dinner in foil for the oven, or in plastic wrap for the microwave. Label and freeze. Reheat 30 to 40 minutes in the oven, 20 minutes on the "defrost" setting in the microwave, then on regular setting if needed, 2 to 4 minutes just until heated through. Don't overcook.
1 pound diced roast lamb, lean only
1 cup sliced celery
1 cup sliced cooked potatoes
1/2 cup thinly sliced onion
4 tablespoons minced fresh parsley
3 tablespoons each: olive oil, olive liquid, lemon juice
1 teaspoon dried oregano leaves
Garlic salt and coarse pepper to taste
Large head of lettuce
2 ripe tomatoes, cubed
Combine ingredients except tomatoes and lettuce and marinate in refrigerator several hours, or overnight. Toss with torn lettuce and tomato cubes just before serving. Makes 6 meal-size salads, under 250 calories each.
Pita pocket salads: Omit potatoes. Reduce salad oil to 1 tablespoon. Spoon mixture into 6 1-ounce pita pockets. Under 275 calories per serving.
Lacking a reverse Easter bunny to come take away all of Easter Sunday's extra bounty, we focus on ways to resurrect holiday leftovers into nonfattening reruns. Sunday dinner, colored eggs, even chocolate rabbit ears, can find a way into calorie-trimmed dishes. Here are some ideas:
LAMB AND LINGUINE
3 cups tender-cooked linguine (or spaghetti)
1 cup sliced onions
2 cups thinly sliced rare roast lamb
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
Dash each: ground cinnamon and nutmeg
Salt (or garlic salt), pepper, to taste
3/4 cup plain low-fat yogurt
4 tablespoons minced fresh parsley
While linguine is cooking in boiling salted water (follow package directions), spray a large non-stick skillet or electric frying pan with cooking spray. Arrange onions in shallow layer. Cover and cook over moderate heat, just until onions are soft. Stir in lamb, oregano, cinnamon, nutmeg, salt and pepper. Cover and cook over low heat until lamb is heated through.