Saturday, August 3, 2013

Grilled Leg of Lamb

A few weeks ago, I prepared a special, three-course menu for my parents.  I have already posted about the first two course ... Grilled Apricots, Burrata and Arugula Salad, followed by Grilled Calamari with a Red Pepper Sauce.  When it came to the main course, I had a decision to make.  I made that decision as I strolled the aisles and stands of the West Side Market in Cleveland, Ohio.  I debated different cuts of beef, such as a rib roast or strip steaks, as well as whole chickens and legs of lamb or goat. 

I ultimately decided on a portion of a leg of lamb.  A whole leg of lamb could easily weigh six to seven pounds, with the bone.  I was feeding three people (my beautiful Angel does not eat lamb), so that much meat was simply too much.  One of the vendors had a three pound piece that was perfect.  I had the piece de-boned, because, given I was going to grill the lamb, I wanted to be able to adjust cooking times.  I could lay the piece out flat, to cook it faster, or roll it up into a roast-like form, to slow down the cooking.  I had the meat, and, along with my family, we returned home to decide on how best to grill the lamb.

I recalled a story told by my mother about the leg of lamb that used to be prepared by my great grandmother whenever my mom and my dad would visit her.  My great grandmother emigrated to this country from Abruzzo and, in preparing the lamb, she would insert whole cloves into the meat before roasting the leg.  Rather than put whole cloves in this leg of lamb, I inserted garlic slices throughout the meat.  I also marinated the lamb in a garlic-herb marinade for an hour or two to help add flavor to the meat.

When it came to grilling the lamb, I grilled for a very short period of time over direct heat and then moved the lamb to a cooler part of the grill, using indirect heat to finish the grilling.  However, the lamb still cooked much quicker than I thought it would.  I was shooting for medium rare, which would have been 145 degrees Fahrenheit, but I pulled it off at about 150 degrees Fahrenheit.  By the time the lamb rested, the temperature probably pushed about 160 degrees, which is medium.  In the end, it did not matter.  My parents like their lamb cooked medium to medium well.  More importantly, the lamb was still juicy and tasty.  A success!

A Chef Bolek Original
Serves several

1 boneless leg of lamb, about three pounds
6 cloves of garlic, sliced
4 tablespoons of rosemary, chopped finely
4 tablespoons of thyme, chopped finely
1 tablespoon of salt
1 tablespoon of freshly ground black pepper
1/2 tablespoon of crushed red pepper
Extra virgin olive oil

1.  Marinate the leg of lamb.  Make slits in the thicker parts of the leg of lamb and insert slices of garlic.   Add any remaining garlic to a bowl, along with the rosemary, thyme, red pepper, black pepper and salt.  Add olive oil until the mixture becomes a paste.  Add the paste on all parts of the leg of lamb.  Let the lamb marinate in the refrigerator for at least an hour but preferably three or four hours.  

2.  Grill the lamb.  Heat the grill to about 275 to 300 degrees Fahrenheit.  Cooking times will vary depending upon the size of the leg of lamb, but cook the lamb to about 145 degrees Fahrenheit, which is medium rare.  Remove the lamb from the grill, allow it to rest fifteen to thirty minutes.  Slice the lamb and serve immediately. 

When it comes to pairing a wine or beer with this lamb, there are a lot of options.  The ingredients in the marinade -- rosemary, thyme, garlic -- immediately suggest a red wine from Italy.  The easiest choice would be a Chianti, but other Tuscan wines such as a Vino Nobile di Montepulciano or a Morellino di Scansano could work as well.  When it comes to Spanish wines, a wine produced with varietals like Tempranillo or Garnacha would work well. 

If you are not into wine, this lamb could also pair well with beer.  The most obvious pairing is an India Pale Ale.  I would choose an English IPA over an American IPA, because the English beers tend to a little more balanced, with a good dose of hops but a developed malt backbone. Another option is a Czech style pilsner, something that, like the English IPA, would complement the flavors of the meat rather than compete with them. 


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