There is always a lamb dish on Missy Robbins’ menu. The chef of Brooklyn’s Lilia restaurant has been cooking in restaurant kitchens for most of her life, appeared on Top Chef, earned two Michelin stars (both at A Voce in Manhattan), and can now add author to her brand.
Robbins’ new book (written with Carrie King), Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner... Life! Recipes and Adventures from My Home Kitchen, is out now and is full of memories of her early days in restaurant kitchens, the physical exhaustion of burnout, the emotional ache of heartbreak, and the triumphant realization of a life’s dream: to run a restaurant.
It’s also full of smart, pungent recipes for food Robbins serves now and has served in the past, from her buttery bagna cauda (including a trick she learned from a Piedmontese chef) to her veal and pork meatballs (with three tips on how to keep them moist), spaghetti with ramps (a one-pot meal that comes together in 15 minutes), and olive oil cake with candied citrus (an ideal back-pocket sort of dessert that keeps on the counter for days).
But it’s Robbins’ leg of lamb that feels both homey and special. The large format hunk of meat makes for a dramatic main course — particularly because of the heady scent of the citrus, garlic, and herbs that make up the marinade — and this, the cooler months of the year, are just the time to pull out all the stops.
“Spit roasted” leg of lamb, orange, coriander, honey
The first time I made this dish it was indeed on a spit and it was wonderful to watch the lamb slowly cook until it was deeply charred and caramelized on the outside, yet still pink on the inside. The reality is that most of us don’t have spits at our disposal, but luckily, it is easy to replicate the same effects in an oven with results that are just as satisfying. Lamb is by far my favorite meat and it always has been ever since the childhood days when I insisted on ordering whole racks well done. This is a nice dish for when you need to serve a crowd, not just because a leg of lamb is a lot of meat, but also because it’s pretty impressive when you present it to your guests.
1 leg of lamb, bone-in
zest of 2 oranges, peeled with a peeler into large pieces (no pith)
1 head of garlic, peeled and chopped
¼ cup coriander seeds, cracked
2 tablespoons black peppercorns, cracked
½ cup olive oil
¼ cup honey
zest of 1 orange, finely chopped
2 heads garlic, broken up with paper skin intact
10 rosemary sprigs
1. Generously salt the leg of lamb and let it sit for at least 1 hour, or, ideally, in the fridge overnight if you have time.
2. Combine all the ingredients for the marinade in a bowl and mix to combine.
3. Rub the marinade all over the lamb.
1. Preheat the oven to 425ºF.
2. Place the lamb in a large roasting pan. Top with the orange zest, broken garlic heads, and rosemary sprigs.
3. Place the lamb in the oven and cook for 20–25 minutes until it is well browned and caramelized.
4. Turn the oven down to 350ºF and cook until rare to medium-rare. Use a thermometer to take the internal temperature at its thickest part, which you want to be at about 115ºF for rare, 125ºF for medium-rare. Once it reaches temperature, remove it from the oven and let it rest for 10–15 minutes, keeping in mind that the lamb will continue to cook a bit as it rests.
5. Place the lamb on a large cutting board and carve off the bone to serve.
From Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner... Life! Recipes and Adventures from My Home Kitchen by Missy Robbins with Carrie King/Rizzoli Publishing