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Grilled Leg of Lamb with Lemon and Rosemary
I'm a relative latecomer to the joy that is lamb. It was almost
non-existent in the groceries when I was growing up, although I do
remember making lamb burgers when I was about thirteen years old. I
remember they were great - but that's it. Our springtime holidays - St.
Patrick's Day, Easter, Mother's Day - were graced by ham.
In more recent years I've begun finding it more sporadically, and because I can't stand not knowing how to work with a particular ingredient, I've gotten as much of it as I can. I can't really compare it to anything, except perhaps to beef, but that falls short. The texture is amazing, the flavor light and delicate - except - if it's overcooked. In that case it turns to a rubbery, gamey mess. I quickly realized the best way to deal with this beautiful little meat was to grill it. No surprise there - I'm still trying to figure out how to grill grits. I know it can be done - just give me time.
There are numerous ways to deal with
a leg of lamb, but this is one of my favorites, especially if there's
no gale and therefore the grill is accessible. I use many of the classic
flavors that pair so well with lamb, but tweaked the techniques a bit
to make it simple enough for everyday.
- 1 3-4 lb leg of lamb
- 1 onion, roughly chopped
- 3-4 cloves of garlic
- 1 sprig rosemary (a big one)
- 1 tsp each salt and pepper, plus a bit more for the meat
- 1 cup yogurt - plain, unsweetened yogurt! Or Greek yogurt if you can find it.
- the juice and zest of a large lemon
- Place all ingredients except the lamb into the bowl of a food processor. Pulse a few times to get a rough paste.
- Salt and pepper the outside of the lamb, and place lamb into a gallon size baggie or a bowl large enough for the whole leg of lamb. A large casserole dish works too. Add the yogurt marinade mixture, making sure all side of the lamb are covered.
- Refrigerate for at least one hour and up to four hours. Frankly, mine went five - just not much longer or the exterior of the roast may get mushy.
- Preheat grill to high. If you wish, insert a couple of metal skewers into the leg to help stabilize the meat. You don't have to - you'll just need to be more careful when turning it.
- Remove lamb from the marinade, shaking off excess and discarding it.
- When the grill is fully heated, place lamb on the grill. Turn heat down to medium low (300-350F). Close the lid, and allow the lamb to cook on the first side until fully caramelized. About 8 minutes did it for mine.
- Flip the lamb, and insert a probe thermometer into the thickest part of the lamb. You're looking for an internal temperature of 135-140F. I hate giving cooking times most of the time since I can't calibrate the thermometers on your equipment, but being careful to move the lamb to the 'cool' part of the grill for most of the cooking time, this took about 30 minutes on my grill. Keep the lid closed as much as possible, and don't flip or move it unless you have to. Really, just leave it alone. I promise it'll be all right if your grill isn't too hot.
- When you've reached the correct internal temperature, remove to a serving platter and let it rest for at least ten minutes. Carve it thinly across the grain. I personally don't think it needs anything - the marinade gives a great, subtle flavor that enhances the meat without covering it up. The merest sprinkle of kosher salt at the table may be it. This is great with a big bowlful of steamed parslied new potatoes. Yummy.
A couple of quick notes:
- If you are in a small town like I am, you often have to make do. In this case, I can only get a leg of lamb when it's been cryovaced (how do you spell that?!?). The nice thing is that they are already boned and really well trimmed. The sometimes nice/sometimes irritating part is that mine are always already wrapped to roast. Which means I can't get flavor to the interior of the roast where it will do so much. So get rid of that funky straight jacket off of it and open it up. You may need to slice the piece at the top where it was deboned. No big deal.
- You see that green button? It's supposed to be a thermometer. Is it - but there are issues with it. First, it goes only so far into the meat, so you don't get a true read. Secondly, it will only 'pop' when it hits what I consider to be way, way overdone. And finally, it is simply a hole that lets juice out if you remove it after the meat is cooked. So get rid of it at the beginning, and the exterior will caramelize and seal it for you. My Mama says that the button that comes on roasts and turkeys was like a belly button if you're pregnant. They pop out and you think you're done, but it's all a cruel joke, and it has nothing to do do with the way things work out. Mama is smart.
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