What I thought the message said was, “I would like a leg of lamb.” Making a leg of lamb is about the easiest thing you can do. My mother would say, it is like making a chicken. She was essentially a vegetarian, but had the basic knowledge of how to cook anything. I asked her once if she knew how to cook a squirrel and she said without looking up, “of course I do. It’s like making a chicken.” I didn’t say anything. I just walked away. But in my head I thought, how does she know that? Why does she know that?
I waited for the butcher to bring the leg of lamb out from the back; It was the length of my arm, which is two feet. I texted my client to see if she wanted that or maybe a shank from what looked like a significantly younger cousin, but she was busy. I bought the whole leg. People want what they want. I threw it into my cart thinking the best way to cook a leg of lamb is by rotating it over a wood burning fire. I love the smell of lamb pierced with garlic and rosemary, pressed into a paste and shoved into a small slash, every few inches. I lugged the cart up the front stairs through the two doors of the entry, down the steps to the kitchen and remembered, the oven. It is not big enough. I walked the leg back to the butcher to get him to saw it in half and decided that I would change my whole plan. Normally, with a fire and small leg, I go for medium rare. It is done in no time. But with a lamb pushing the age limit and an oven, I thought it would be better to go the route of low and slow. The oven should be set at 300. You need to salt and sear your leg halves in a heavy saute pan. Wipe out the excess salt, give the pan a little more olive oil, then add two heads of garlic that have been cut in half, cut side down, and a few halved shallots. When they start to get a little color, add a few rosemary sprigs, bay leaves, and a few cups of white wine. Pour that into a roasting pan and set the lamb leg on top. Cover with parchment and seal tightly with aluminum foil. Roast for 7 hours, basting frequently. Halfway through the roasting, flip the leg. It is done when you can get through it with a spoon. To go with, I made saffron rice with peas, and then poached asparagus with a side of lemon aioli. For dessert, anything lemon. Lemon mascarpone gelato, lemon cake with a cardamom cream or a lemon tart with lemon card and pate brisee. I went off the rails and made a key lime pie with a shortbread crust. The extra egg whites are perfect for making a meringue for the top, but I like barely sweetened and barely whipped cream.
When I got home and read the message again, as you do when it is too late, when the deed is done, when the party is over, I saw that it said, “Maybe, a half of a leg of lamb.”