- 6 ounces basil, leaves only (4 cups)
- 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 1/4 cup coarsely ground black pepper
- One 6-pound boneless leg of lamb, trimmed of excess fat and tied
- 1 cup dried sour cherries (1/4 pound)
- Boiling water
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1/2 cup dry red wine
- 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
- 1 cup rich beef stock or veal demiglace (see Note)
- 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
- In a food processor, pulse the basil leaves just until coarsely chopped. Add the olive oil and the coarsely ground black pepper and pulse just until a coarse paste forms. Rub the basil paste all over the lamb and set the roast on a rack set in a roasting pan. Let the roast stand at room temperature for 45 minutes to marinate. After 30 minutes, preheat the oven to 400°.
- Meanwhile, in a small heatproof bowl, cover the dried cherries with boiling water and let stand until plump, about 30 minutes. Drain.
- Season the lamb with salt and pepper. Roast it on the bottom shelf of the oven for 30 minutes. Reduce the oven temperature to 350° and roast the lamb for 1 1/2 hours longer, or until an instant-read thermometer inserted in the thickest part of the roast reads 125°.
- Transfer the roasted lamb to a carving board, cover the roast loosely with foil and let stand for 15 minutes.
- Meanwhile, spoon off the fat from the roasting pan and set the pan over 2 burners. Add the red wine and balsamic vinegar and bring to a boil over high heat, scraping up any browned bits from the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon. Simmer until the liquid is reduced by half, about 5 minutes, then strain the liquid into a small saucepan. Add the beef stock and cook over moderately high heat until reduced to 3/4 cup, about 15 minutes. Add the reconstituted cherries and the butter, season the dried-cherry sauce with salt and pepper and keep warm.
- Remove the strings from the lamb roast and cut it into thin slices. Arrange the meat on a platter and surround it with the Caramelized Red Onions. Pour the dried-cherry sauce into a bowl and pass at the table.
The roasted lamb can be prepared through Step 1 and refrigerated overnight. Bring to room temperature before proceeding.
Veal demiglace is available at specialty food shops and can be mail-ordered from Williams-Sonoma (877-812-6235 or williams-sonoma.com).
A lively, intense California Pinot Noir with dried-cherry-fruit nuances will echo the lamb's dried-cherry sauce. Alternatively, you could choose an intense Barolo with hints of earth and cherry.