Wednesday April 17, 2013 | 01:05 AM

For lamb lovers, spring lamb is highly prized, the meat so tender and sweet. In Maine it's easy to get locally raised, pastured lamb from area farms.  Many of the vendors at farmers’ markets offer lamb, though at this time of year it’s generally frozen.

But depending on harvesting schedules you can get fresh lamb  at variouis farms around Maine.  My favorite sources are Straw Farm, Apple Creek Farm and Crystal Spring Farm.  Occasionally North Haven Island lamb can be found in the markets, and you should definitely try it.  Foggy Meadow, Turner, and Sheep Meadow farms are the main lamb providers on the island.

Grazing lamb at Crystal Springs Farm, Brunswick

Perfect grazing pasture with sea mist and ocean air at Turner Farm on North Haven

Occasionally Sheep Meadow lamb from North Haven is available at Curtis Meats in Warren

The Cabot family at North Haven's Foggy Meadow  Farm produces very good island lamb

I had a leg of lamb from Apple Creek in my freezer and made it the other day.  I’ve found that their lamb is extremely tender and very delicate.   In cooking these heritage breeds I like to keep the recipe simple. 

This leg is from Apple Creek Farm, whose lamb is incredibly tender and sweet; it's available at the Brunswick indoor farmer's market and elsewhere during the spring and  summer.  The potatoes cooked under the lamb emerge filled with delicious lamb flavor

I studded it with garlic, thyme and rosemary, moistened with olive oil and placed over a bed of sliced potatoes arranged in the roasting pan.  Add a little stock to keep the potatoes moist, roast the lamb at 400 degrees, and a leg of around 4 pounds should be done in an hour and a quarter to reach 135 degrees internally.  Then you finish off the potatoes with a heavy sprinkling of Parmesan cheese, giving the potatoes about 10 minutes in the oven to crisp.

Leg of lamp with Parmesan potatoes
Servings: 4

1 4-pound leg of spring lamb
3 to 4 Yukon gold potatoes, peeled and sliced
½ cup to 1 cup chicken stock
3 cloves garlic
4 to 5 sprigs thyme and rosemary
Salt and pepper
Olive oil
½ cup grated Parmesan

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Slice the potatoes into ¼ inch thick slices and lay, overlapping, into a buttered roasting pan.  An enameled cast-iron roasting pan ( Creuset would be ideal).  Add just enough chicken stock to barely moisten the potatoes.

With a sharp paring knife cut ½-inch deep incisions all over the lamb.  Cut the garlic cloves into slivers and insert.  Chop up some thyme and rosemary and stuff into the holes with the garlic.

With the remaining garlic, smash the clove of garlic (add one more if you like) with the side of a chef’s knife, put into a mortar and pestle and add a generous amount of sea salt.  Pound until it becomes fairly pasty.  Add some olive oil,  chopped thyme and rosemary and continue to work with the pestle until it’s nicely combined into a rough paste. Add more olive oil if needed.  Rub this paste all over the lamb, season it generously with sea salt and black pepper and put over the potatoes.

Roast in the oven for an hour and 15 minutes or until the internal temperature reaches 135 degrees for medium rare.  Remove the lamb to a cutting board and allow to rest.  Meanwhile, sprinkle the cheese over the potatoes and put back in the oven until they’re crusty and lightly browned.

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John Golden has written about food, dining and lifestyle subjects for Downeast magazine, the Boston Globe, Cottages and Gardens magazine, Gourmet magazine, Cuisine magazine, the New York Times and the New York Post.

In his highly opinionated blog, John reports on his experiences dining out all over Maine and his visits with food personalities, farmers and farmers’ markets throughout the state.

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