Tuesday, April 6, 2010

For the Love of Lamb

This is long overdue, but have I told you how much I love lamb? Such a sophisticated taste, such a playful dinner star, how could I not? The past 6 months have been full of cooking firsts for me. First time I had a 12 course dinner (worth every penny), first time I cooked duck (it’s all about the braising), and first time I roasted a leg of lamb. First time I made lamb at all, actually, and now I’m addicted. And like any good addict, I’ve got a dealer, Lamb King (LK). So as long as LK keeps dropping off the lamb, I’ll keep cooking it up.
My first foray with a 4 lb leg of lamb was this January. Sarah and I had a genius idea: Moroccan. Over the course of 4 days we learned everything there is to know about Moroccan flavors, including how to make the essential, the beautiful, my new favorite, harissa. A quick little lemony, harissa marinade sounded like heaven. To go along with it my thought-I’d-hate-it-but-now-I-love-it mint dressing, cous cous with figs, and plenty of wine and good friends. And had Sarah and I remembered to actually stop watching movies and start the dinner on time, we may have eaten before 9 p.m.
Lamb #2. I can’t actually take credit for this. I received a call from LK. Friend was having tapas-style dinner to celebrate his bday, and requested something lamby. Lamb kabobs just fell into place with a nice mint marinade. Alas, cannot remember which recipe we used, but it was basic: lemon, garlic, mint, lamb on skewers and grilled with a bit of smoking wood on the fire.
Last Thursday was another feat. I had promised Friend a Passover-friendly dinner party, LK promised another leg of lamb, but it was a weeknight. I shouldn’t have worried. My lovely lamb didn’t let me down, it never could. While guests lounged on the roof deck with goat cheese cucumber apps and gin and tonics, my lovely lamb roasted beautifully directly on the oven rack (blasphemy, says LK, but it cooked much faster) after bathing for 24 hours in a mint lemon garlic marinade. Mint dressing. Smoky quinoa (it’s a berry, not a grain). Roasted asparagus. Flourless lavender chocolate torte. Perfection.
Moroccan leg of lamb
1 9-to-11-pound bone-in leg of lamb, trimmed of fat and membrane
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/3 cup fruity-tasting olive oil
1/3 cup lemon juice
1 tablespoon lemon zest
2 tablespoons minced garlic

1 tablespoon harissa (Moroccan chili paste), more for serving
1 teaspoon whole coriander seeds, toasted and crushed
½ teaspoon ground cumin
1. Score meaty side of lamb in a diamond pattern of ¼-inch-deep cuts about 1½ inches apart. Season with salt and pepper, and place scored-side up in a large roasting pan.
2. In a small bowl, whisk olive oil with lemon juice, lemon zest, garlic, harissa, coriander seeds and cumin. Pour marinade over lamb and massage into crevices. Cover pan with aluminum foil and refrigerate 2½ hours or overnight. Remove from refrigerator 1½ hours before cooking to return lamb to room temperature; in last 15 minutes, heat oven to 450 degrees.
3. Remove foil from pan and place pan on middle oven rack; turn heat down to 350 degrees. Roast, basting lamb with pan juices every ½ hour, until a meat thermometer inserted into thickest part of meat reads 130 degrees, about 1¾ hours total. Remove from oven, tent loosely with foil, and let rest 15 minutes before carving. Serve with harissa and mint dressing.
Mint Dressing
2 cups tightly packed mint leaves, washed and dried
2 tablespoons chopped shallots

2 teaspoons red wine vinegar
½ cup fruity-tasting olive oil
1 small clove garlic, minced
½ teaspoon kosher salt, more to taste
Freshly ground black pepper to taste.
In a food processor, combine mint, shallots, vinegar, olive oil, garlic and salt until smooth. Season to taste with salt and black pepper.

No comments:

Post a Comment