Did you know that February is Lamb Lover’s Month? Neither did I, until I was contacted by the American Lamb Board to participate in a lamb cooking contest (you can vote here, starting February 14th: www.lambloversmonth.com). Yes, that’s right folks. How could I possibly say no? So I filled out my registration, and got a boneless leg of lamb in the mail last Friday.
I immediately started researching lamb cooking techniques, and ended up kind of combining a few recipes. Because lamb is often used in Greek/Mediterranean cuisine, most recipes have lots of rosemary, lemon, mint, and even some yogurt sauces. I didn’t want to get too fancy because I wanted it to be something that we all could easily pull off. I wanted to do some kind of spice rub or marinade where I could leave the lamb overnight to really absorb the flavors of whatever I ended up going with.
So after some research, I decided to go with an adapted version of a recipe from The Herbfarm Cookbook. I used varied amounts of all of the ingredients to go for a little more of the taste I wanted (more lavender, thyme, adding lemon, etc.) and was very happy with the result: a strongly herb-flavored (but not overpowering), perfectly cooked piece of lamb.
For our sides, we cooked brussels sprouts in a combination of melted lamb fat and oil: slice each sprout, top to bottom, into 3-4 pieces, heat the fat/oil, toss in a layer of sprouts (careful, it will spit and it will hurt – long sleeves are your friend), and sprinkle with salt. Cook until the bottoms are nice and dark, tossing occasionally if desired. We also made a rough version of fingerling potatoes gremolata: slice up your potatoes, toss in oil and salt, sprinkle with some chopped garlic, roast them until tender, and then when you’ve removed them, top them with some melted butter and chopped parsley. And salad. We had salad too. If you like this recipe, the blog post, even just the pictures, head over to www.lambloversmonth.com to vote for our little blog to win the Lamb Lover’s Month cooking contest! It would be super awesome, and maybe I’d even invite you over to enjoy some free lamb…
Hope you all have a lovely Valentine’s day, featuring some kind of delicious food! (A latte with your loved one? A sexy seafood dinner? Roasted lamb? The possibilities are endless – get out there and try something new and adventurous!)
Herb Rubbed Lamb
1/2 cup fresh rosemary pines
4 tsp fresh or 2 1/2 tsp dried lavender buds
4 tsp fresh thyme leaves
6 cloves garlic, peeled
1 Tbl Dijon mustard
1 tsp salt
1 tsp freshly ground pepper
zest of one meyer lemon
6 Tbl olive oil
1 boneless leg of lamb (about 3 pounds, though more also definitely works)
6 woody branches of rosemary
1 meyer lemon, sliced into thin rounds (and seeded, if necessary)
optional: a few more cloves of garlic, number is dependent on your passion for the garlic
1/4 cup red wine
1 tsp dijon mustard
1 tsp balsamic vinegar
Start by processing all the herb paste ingredients except for the olive oil in a food processor until the herbs (particularly the rosemary leaves) are chopped. Now, with the machine running, slowly pour in the oil. Most machines have a spout type thing at the top you can remove so that you can pour ingredients in while blending. Continue to blend until it has reached a thick sauce consistency, scraping down the sides when necessary. There will still be little chunks of rosemary and garlic, you can’t make a complete paste out of it, but do the best you can.
If the lamb is tied, untie it. Spread the lamb out, and with a sharp knife, trim as much fat as you can from both sides of the meat. Think that fat is gross and that you’re going to toss it in the trash? Don’t! Fat can be used for lots of things. Melt it down and use it to cook veggies in or make a broth (I think? I’m not sure how well that would actually work if you haven’t got ANY meat attached, but it’s worth a shot.) Find a baking dish where the lamb will fit snugly. Rub the top of the lamb with about half of the herb paste, flip it over, and rub the other side. Set it in the dish, cover with plastic wrap, and stick it in the fridge for 8-24 hours (the longer the better). Now, I am not particularly a fan of recipes where you have to refrigerate anything for more than an hour – planning ahead is not my forte. But you know what I’m learning? It’s so worth it. When you let anything (particularly meat) absorb the flavors of your marinade or rub for a long time, it makes such a big, flavorful difference.
Preheat your oven to 425 degrees. Remove your lamb from the dish and, attempting to remove as little of the herb rub as possible, roll the lamb back into it’s original shape. If this seems relatively impossible (as it did for Jonah when he was rolling it), just roll it into whatever shape makes sense – you just want it to be kind of spiraled and uniform in size. Hopefully that makes sense. We also took some whole cloves of garlic and stuck them in little crevices in the lamb before rolling it up. They got gently cooked, and made for a nice look when the lamb was sliced for serving. Take a few pieces of kitchen twine and tie the lamb snugly in three places (or more, whatever you need to do to make it work – just as few as possible, mostly). Put the rosemary branches and lemon slices in the bottom of the baking dish and gently set the lamb on top. Roast the lamb at 425 for 10 minutes before reducing the heat to 350 degrees. Roast for about an hour and a half, or until an instant read thermometer inserted into the center registers 130-135 degrees. Note: ours DID NOT take an hour and a half. It was done a little over an hour at 350. Take the temperature in a few places and use the lowest . Remove the roast from the oven, transfer it to a board (preferably one with those grooves around the edges as it will be releasing lots of juices), cover it loosely with foil, and let it rest for about 10 minutes.
While the meat is resting, whip up the sauce. Take the rosemary branches and lemon slices out of the baking dish, and tilt the dish so the drippings all run into one corner. Skim off as much fat as you can, transfer the remaining juices to a little saucepan. Add the wine and put it over low heat. Use a whisk to stir in the mustard and vinegar, and season to taste with salt and pepper if you’d like. Remove the strings from the meat and slice it thinly. Arrange on a platter (or just throw a couple slices on each plate) and pour the sauce over. Voila! A delicious dinner.