Monday, January 03, 2011

Spice Rubbed Lamb with Stuffed Pasta Shells

It has been a long-standing tradition in my family to roast a leg of lamb during the holidays. Over the past couple of years we seem to have forgotten that tradition. New Years Day I brought it back. This is my version of my moms classic roasted lamb leg. 

I opted for a dry spice rub and a spicy butter mixture to infuse the meat while it cooked. I served the meat with creamy stuffed shells. The aromatics coming from your kitchen will amaze you, this meal is one of my holiday favorites!

Serves:10-12 (Dependent on Leg Size)
In a food processor pulse one stick of butter, 4 cloves of garlic, 2 tablespoons of fresh ginger and 1 tablespoon of cayenne pepper. Pulse until combined and set aside. 

Place your leg of lamb on a roasting rack in a roasting pan.
This leg weighed about 6 pounds.

Rub the lamb with the following spices to create a thick spice rub. Salt, freshly ground black pepper, cayenne pepper, cumin, dried parsley leaves and garlic powder. 

Please note: The amount of spices you use depends on the size of your lamb leg.

With your hands, rub the spices evenly onto the lamb leg.

The finished effect should look something like this.

Turn the meat over and repeat steps and ingredients for the spice rub on this side.

 Flip the meat back over and using a sharp knife cut 1/2 inch incisions in the meat about 2 inches deep.

I made about six incisions, you can make as many or as few as you like, in different areas of the meat on this side.

With your fingers grab a teaspoon full of the reserved butter mixture and insert into your incisions.
Turn meat over and repeat steps on opposite side.

Seal the incisions by packing some of the butter mixture on top of the meat.
Reserve the remaining butter mixture for basting later.

Next, cut open a can of sliced pineapples.

(I used cubed, because that's what I had in my pantry and I didn't feel like going to the grocery store.)

Using a toothpick, insert one end into the pineapple then insert it into the meat.

Repeat steps until you have a beautiful line of pineapples along the entire length of the leg.

Try not to stake any pineapples into your butter packed incisions.

Preheat your oven to 450 degrees. Just before placing meat in oven add about 3/4 of a cup of water to the bottom of the roasting pan. Bake at 450 degrees for 15 minutes, at about 10 minutes in using a baster baste the leg with the remaining butter mixture.You may have to soften the mixture a bit in the microwave first.

Reduce temperature on the oven to 350 degrees and continue baking.

 Remove from oven when a meat thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the leg reads 160 degrees. It took me approximately 2 hours to reach this temperature.

Please note: 160 degrees is for well done meat, if you prefer your meat medium or rare remove from heat at 140-150 degrees.

Remove from heat and let meat rest for at least 30 minutes before cutting and serving. Remove pineapple from meat before cutting, I like to serve a couple pineapple cubes (or one slice) with each serving of meat. The spicy rub creates a very nice sweet and spicy infused flavor in the fruit.

For Pasta Shells: Serves 4-6
Bring 8 quarts of water to a boil in a stockpot and cook large pasta shells according to package instructions.

Drain and set aside.

In a mixing bowl combine 1 cup of Ricotta cheese, 1/2  a cup of Mascarpone cheese, 1/2 a cup of finely chopped flat leaf parsley and one cup of shredded Parmesan cheese. Stir together to combine with a spoon. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Using a teaspoon stuff cheese mixture into cooked shells and pull sides together to close at middle.

These shells don't really close, as you can see above, the one on the far right I overstuffed! You just want to try and create a "closed" look with the cheese peeking through at either end.

Arrange onto a greased Pyrex baking dish. 
I had about 10 pasta shells left over, you can either refrigerate the extras to use later, or toss.

Top with 1 cup of shredded Mozzarella cheese, and 1/4 cup of breadcrumbs sprinkled on top evenly.
Bake at 350 degrees until cheese has melted and bread crumbs have browned slightly, about 15-20 minutes.

Serve shells with sliced lamb meat and charred pineapple cubes.
You may want to serve a sauce or gravy with your lamb, I created a quick sauce using the pan drippings a little flour, salt, pepper and fresh parsley.

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