Some food, some drink.
RecipeBeta: Slow-Roasted leg of Lamb with Red Wine, Cumin and Garlic (or, Lamb for the Leery).
Beta recipes are my own experiments that I've only tried once. Usually palatable, they often could be better with a little tweaking - So please do, and let me know what works!
Where this household is concerned, lamb might as well come from another planet. No one here grew up eating it, and the unfamiliarity puts an unwanton stigma on this tasty critter. With that in mind, I'm working to develop lamb recipes devoid of all the things that makes lamb scary to those that don't eat it regularly. This boneless leg of lamb is completely cooked thru, yet remains moist, flavorful, and crazy-tender. If you're looking for a way to get your feet wet with lamb, this grill-friendly recipe is a great way to start.
Just about every time I stroll past the seafood aisle at the grocery store I begin to lament. When you get used to the notion of buying local and the lion's share of the available seafood at the market is caught hundreds or even thousands of miles away, you gotta know that quality (as well as your wallet) is going to suffer. Well, this spring I decided if I couldn't get a variety of surf, then I ought to be looking for alternatives to my turf.
We have a pretty good relationship with a ranching family that's provided us with some quality steer the last couple of years, and it just so happens they raise hogs and lamb as well. I had already procured a pig prior, but lamb - that's something I don't eat often; usually only a couple of times a year when some restaurant just happens to have it on special. In a fit of overzealousness while the wife had her back turned, I had the good people at Truitt Farms put me down for one; one whole lamb. Now, a processed lamb probably won't give you more than around 70ish pounds usable, and this probably sounds reasonable if you've got a freezer and you're stocking up for the year. However, at this very moment (dinner parties aside) I am the only person in my house that eats lamb. Thus, I've embarked into the culinary unknown flying solo. Everything is a bit new right now as I try to get my head around how to prepare this new kind of critter. So far, I've braised some shanks and grilled some chops, but with the advent of my recent grill purchase, I decided it was time to go for something bigger. So, on this particular day, I figured I'd take a crack at roasting a leg of lamb. And while there are plenty of perparations out there, I fuigured while I was at it, that I would try to cook this leg in a way that the lamb skeptics might be open to trying, so while I could have (and would have like to have) made this leg raw as hell, we're trying something a bit different this time around to see if we can't rope in a few folks that might otherwise be scared of the sheep.
Recipe: Jump to the detailed recipe. (or, keep reading for the gist of it) -
Needed for the Roasting
Combine ingredients listed for the brine and blend until smooth. Throw the Lamb and brine in a zip top bag and let it overnight in the fridge.
The next day, set your barbeque grill for 250 degrees' [Farenheit] worth of indirect heat, adding the mesquite and apple woods per your manufacturer's recommendations. While the grill is warming up, tie up your roast uniformly (if the butcher didn't do the de-boning for you), drizzle with 1 Tbsp olive oil, insert your probe thermometer in the end, and cook underneath a drip pan filled with 2 more cups of Shiraz and what's left of the brine. Cook to desired doneness; for 150F (medium doneness) it'll take about 3.5ish hours. Lest rest covered briefly (5 minutes) before slicing thin and serving.
- Again, my butcher comes thru. Our rancher told me that they go to Smoky Hill Meat Processing because they're one of the few places around here that will hang lamb out to age a bit before it's processed and packaged (like they do beef). A good seven-days' rest contributes to the overall tenderness of the meat, and puts the kibosh on any off-putting flavors that lamb given the hurry-up may carry. Talk to your butcher; it's only your culinary rep on the line here. :p
- I had my processor portion out the roasts into something a bit more manageable for our household (read: me). My particular leg was halved, yielding about three and a half pounds bone-in; and although I specifically ordered my roasts this way, I decided to go boneless here so as to promote a more even cooking, and to make it easier to get those wafer-thin slices.
- To brine or not to brine? While researching, I saw arguments for both sides. I didn't want to unnecessarily over-season, but at the same time, lamb can be pretty mild in taste. As this was the first leg I ever did, I decided to throw caution to the wind and not pass up an opportunity to add flavor.
- What's more, I made a conscious effort to cook this puppy to medium (sue me) for two reasons: First I wanted to really get a feel for how effective the brine was gonna be in helping this leg retain moisture. Second, that slow, low and moist heat on the grill cooks things plenty even; sort of akin to a sous vide preparation, so I was pretty sure that the finished roast would be consistently done throughout. A higher roasting temperature for this doneness quite likely would have left may lamb roast a bit chewy and dry around the periphery.
- So what's with all that wine? What a waste huh? Well, not really. For these sorts of applications, I reach for the box. The Shiraz I picked up on sale was only $15 for 3 liters. Do the math, and you'll see I only blew a little more than $2.50 on hooch; around here, that's about half a glass's worth of the house stuff if you're dining out at a casual eats joint. If it's the sheer volume and not the price that has you concerned, worry not; it's for a good cause.
- Although written for the barbeque (specifically my Big Steel Keg), I reckon this could be easily recreated sans-smoke in your oven. However, I'd wager the outside of your roast won't look (or smell) near as gorgeous.
While I was cooking this lamb, I kept telling myself that I wasn't cooking this for me, but for the lamb skeptic. I wanted something cooked thru but not dry; I wanted something tender and flavorful, and I wanted something familiar to someone to whom lamb might be foreign. Where all of that's concerned, I think this recipe fires on all cylinders. The end result tasted quite a bit like a seriously tender pork tenderloin; which is a bit astonishing as this is a hard-workin' leg muscle we're talking about here. This whole notion scares my wife a bit, as she's dead-set against eating lamb, and fears my sneaking it to the table when she's not looking.
Was the brine necessary? Well, the fat on a lamb isn't really known for flavor, and is really more of a basting device rather than something you'd wanna eat by itself. So at the very least, I think you'd need a good overnight rest after a seasoning rub-down. Overall, this lamb experiment was a success. And though this time I cooked it thru, I think I'll go for something more rare to match my own tastes next time around, and perhaps even try a reverse sear preparation to get more of a seasoned crust on the surface of the meat.