An avid cook, host, and gardener, Valerie Rice started her blog, Eat Drink Garden, after people kept asking for advice. That was nearly seven years and many followers, readers, and media appearances ago. She posts stories on everything from weeknight dinner ideas to forcing peonies to open, and they are lively, fun, and lovely, not to mention totally family friendly. The beautiful backdrop of Santa Barbara only adds to the charm. Here she shares advice for a fuss-free Easter, along with her recipe for Roast Lamb.
More than any other holiday, Easter is where I stake my claim as hostess. Friends and family haul on over to Casa Rice with empty egg hunt baskets waiting to be filled, humoring my addiction to springtime entertaining. I’ve learned over the years to stick to my mantra of keeping it fresh, simple and sophisticated. However, we are celebrating the abundance, beauty and new life of the season, so there is a little room for extravagance—perhaps another glass of Champagne while the kids hunt for the 163 eggs hidden in the backyard?
You can get many things squared away the day before, which helps the morning run a bit smoother—but let’s be real, no matter how much I plan, I’m usually zipping up my dress as I answer the front door. But the minute the first guest arrives, I do all I can to be present with friends and family and not hide in the kitchen. If you don’t have a good time, chances are your guests won’t either.
What I’ve learned when hosting a crowd this size is to opt for an abundant buffet loaded with room-temperature offerings that showcase the bright, springtime flavors of the garden. For Easter, the biggest challenge in hosting a brunch is pulling it all together early in the day. So what finds its way to my buffet table? Little Gems drizzled with Green Goddess Dressing, Asparagus with Green Garlic, Radish, Pea and Quinoa Salad, Beets with Navel Oranges and Dandelion Greens and this signature dish, Boneless Leg of Lamb Stuffed with Feta and Oregano. Together, you have a great mix of sides to fit any and all dietary needs—be it the vegan hipster neighbors, gluten-free bestie or the meat-loving husband—there’s something for everyone! What is wonderful about this springtime feast is that all the dishes, including the lamb, can be served at room temperature—which means more time to drink that Champagne. Cheers!
Boneless Leg of Lamb Stuffed with Feta and Oregano
I love making a roast for a buffet because it feeds a large group, doesn’t need to be served piping hot and it’s best when it has time to rest a bit before slicing. You can stuff it and tie it the night before, then sear and bake first thing in your robe while sipping a cup of coffee. I like to garnish this with spring onions sliced super thin and more of the fresh oregano used in the stuffing.
- 1 large leg of lamb 7-8 pounds, (ask the butcher to debone it)
- 1/3 cup garlic cloves
- 1 tablespoon of salt
- ¼ cup fresh oregano – plus more for garnish
- ½ tsp red chile flakes
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 2/3 cup of crumbled feta
- Kosher salt and fresh ground pepper
- 1 tablespoon of grapeseed oil (for searing)
- Spring onion, sliced (optional)
- Oregano leaves
- Open the leg of lamb and dry it on both sides with clean towels. In a mortar and pestle pound the garlic and salt, then add oregano and chile flakes and continue to grind until pulverized. Stir in olive oil. Spread this mixture over the inside of the lamb and follow with the feta. *Roll and tie, making sure the lamb is tight and compact. Up to this point, the recipe can be done a day in advance.
- Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
- Pat the outside of the lamb dry of any moisture. Salt and pepper the outside of the lamb. In a large frying pan on medium high/high heat add grapeseed oil and watch for it to dance around the pan. When this happens you’ll know the oil is the right temp to start searing. Add the roast to the pan rotating to brown evenly on all sides. Once the lamb has been seared on all sides, place on a rack in a roasting pan and cook it 20 minutes per pound — approx. 2 ½ hours.
- After two hours of cooking, check with a thermometer to gauge additional cooking time. For medium rare, the thermometer should read 135 degrees. Let lamb rest for no less than 20 – 30 minutes before slicing. Slice meat thinly and garnish with sliced spring onions and oregano leaves.