Lamb has so much flavor. Because of that, people generally love it or hate it. I love it, and so does Evelyn, who provided today’s recipe for Butterflied Boneless Leg of Lamb.
As with all meat, the cut of lamb you use makes a big difference. The more a muscle gets used, the more flavorful it is but the tougher it gets. The “rack” of lamb has the mildest flavor and melts in your mouth. Next come loin chops, then the larger rib chops, which are just slightly chewier. Shoulder chops, from the part of the lamb where the leg meets the body, are the toughest cuts you will find. Leg of lamb falls between rib chops and shoulder chops on the tenderness/flavor scale. When cooked, it will have a texture similar to that of a New York Strip beef steak and have a more intense flavor.
Like fish and produce, fresh is better than frozen. The first place to look for fresh lamb is at your local Greenmarket. At the Union Square Greenmarket, the biggest in Manhattan, there are at least two producers who display there at least occasionally: Catskill Merino and 3-Corner Field Farm. Online, New York Prime Meats, located in Garden City, Long Island has nice products (USDA Prime), and were very responsive to my questions. They sell the meat seasoned with rosemary, salt and pepper. 8 O'clock Ranch is in upstate New York, closer to Ottawa and Montreal than it is to Manhattan. They sell their own 100% grass fed, organic, humanely raised, heritage breed lamb at good prices. The are currently offering free shipping, and my mouth is watering. They were also very responsive to questions.
Buy boneless leg of lamb. It is generally sold rolled and tied. You can untie it and lay it out flat – that’s the butterflying in the recipe. You can also separate it into individual muscles, if you don’t want to cook the whole thing at once. They can then be cooked or frozen individually. This recipe is is simple and effective for bringing out the best in good meat.
The wine matches follow tradition, more or less. Syrah from France’s Rhone Valley and Shiraz (same grape) from one of the cooler spots in Australia will highlight the gaminess of the meat. Aged Bordeaux and lamb are classic, with the bottle flavors contrasting the sweetness of the meat. Madiran, the black wine of France, can easily handle the lamb, and lamb is one of the few things that can handle the Tannat grape. Finally there are the big California Cabs, because we like them, and lamb steaks are one of the few things that can that won’t be overwhelmed by them.
- Boneless Leg of Lamb, about 3 lbs.
- Herbs de Provence
- Garlic, chopped
- Olive Oil
- Salt & Pepper
- Rinse Lamb, then butterfly.
- Rub dry herbs, garlic, salt and pepper over the underside of the butterflied lab. Let it rest for about 45 minutes to allow the lamb to absorb flavor and come to room temperature.
- Brush to side with olive oil.
- Place over charcoal grill (preferable), gas or electric grill, or in the broiler. For a charcoal grill, use a two level fire. Sear the meat on the hot side, and then continue cooking on the slow side. For gas or electric, sear on high, and then turn to low for the rest of the cooking time. For a broiler, sear on the highest level that will fit, then continue cooking on the lowest level.
- Grill for 45 minutes to an hour for medium, depending on your cooking method.
- Let rest for at least 15 minutes, The resting period actually lets the meat reabsorb some of the juices that have been expelled during cooking. If you slice too soon, the juices will be on your cutting board instead of in the meat.
- Slice at an angle to the grain of the meat. Since a leg of lamb is made up of several muscles, you may have to adjust your cutting angle a few times.
- Serve with yellow skin potatoes and zucchini (sliced lengthwise), rubbed with olive oil and grilled.
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