A note: First of all I would like to offer a heartfelt thank you to all of those who kept coming back while this blog sat idle. I am sorry that I have been away for so long, work has unfortunately kept me from cooking much and I didn't have enough of a backlog of recipes to keep up regular posting.
While I use my BBQ a great deal, so much so that I was going through a grill every couple of years before I got my Weber, I don’t often use it for BBQing. I use it for grilling. I have gotten quite good at grilling nearly everything.
Even during winter, or what passes for winter in Southern California, I am out there at least a couple of times a week. This gets a tad silly when its pitch black outside and I am out there waving frantically at the automatic light. In summer however, I grill nearly every other day if not every day. It’s an easy way to get dinner on the table.
Mostly what I grill are individual cuts of meat. Steaks, chicken, and seafood cut to individual portions. They all cook rather quickly; add a few vegetables and dinner is usually on the table pretty quickly. Quickly enough to be able to enjoy the last fading rays of the sun while dining el fresco.
I will be honest that larger cuts on meat in general intimidate me, even more so on the grill where it is new territory. But as I had all weekend to plan and a lovely, idly sunny day in which to tinker, I decided to tackle one of my biggest food hurdles.
I think that large hunks… and I do mean by that taken as a whole and not parceled out into steaks or cut up into stew meat…intimidate me because my parents always did roasts so poorly; my parents who believe in meat that must be cooked until it is grey and dry all the way through. My dad in particular who has no sense of flavor esthetics and who often throws into the pan with the roast the oddest assortment of vegetables and herbs, which he them proceeds to burn to a tarry black consistency.
I was afraid that given a large hunk of meat, I was going to do the same thing. I had to keep asking myself.
Are dry roasts genetic?
Would I find a beautiful cut of meat and then through a short in my internal wiring turn it into grey rubbery matter that even the cat turned away?
I figured that Memorial Day was a good day to find out. If in fact I was to turn a cut of meat into shoe leather, I could at least bury it and call it a memorial to roasts past!
With that in mind I picked up a whole, boneless leg of lamb. If I was going to go for a roast on the BBQ I was going to go all the way. It truly was a huge piece of meat. Even wrapped it its netting of butchers twine it was bigger than my head. Unrolled and spread out it covered a whole baking sheet.
I had a small panic attack as I realized that now that I had bought the meat, I was responsible for it. We stared each other down across the kitchen counter as I tried to figure out what to do to give this hunk of lamp some flavor. I admit it was a slow start. I really had no idea beyond rosemary, garlic, and lemon. But it is always that way with me. Once I start actually mixing things in the kitchen, it becomes a sort of organic alchemy. As I reach for one spice my finger trip over another that seems to make sense and then a third. And before I know it I am stirring and poking at something fragrant and delicious.
Sometimes I mistake, leads to a correction and that leads to another layer of flavors. In this case I realized way after I had already added a couple of heaping tablespoons of salt that, putting salt into a marinade or rub is not a good idea. Salt draws moisture out of the meat and leaves the surface mushy and unlikely to brown well. To compensate I added liquid so that the meat could draw in the flavorful marinade to replace the water salt was leaching out.
So after a half an hour of trimming and mixing, the roast was rubbed down, covered in wine and lemon juice and set again in the fridge, leaving me a night to fret about exactly how I was going to cook it.
I idly toyed with the idea of stuffing it but nothing sounded interesting until I started searching for methods of cooking a whole leg of lamb on the grill and I ran across Cook’s Illustrated instructions for garlic roasted lamb. Their version was stuffed with roasted garlic and parsley. Roasted garlic tickled at the back of my head. I had already marinated the lamb with enough raw garlic to kill and elephant but roasted garlic inside the lamb sounded intriguing, but plain. As I was already working on another recipe involving honey, I did what I always do, combined the ingredients of one recipe with the ingredients of another. Thus far it has rarely proved disappointing.
Having thus smeared the inside of my roast with the honey, garlic and salt mixture I proceeded to inexpertly truss it, fighting with the little bits of lamb that just didn’t want to play nice, and prepared the grill.
Almost as an afterthought I decided to take some wood chips out of the freezer and drop them into the bottom of the grill for extra flavor. This turned out to be a wonderful inclusion, giving the meat a subtle smoky flavor. As I wrestled the trussed roast onto the grill and started to hear the familiar sizzle of flames I once again felt the slightest bit of panic rise up as I suddenly wondered if I could do justice to all of preparation that it took. I diligently turned the roast, browned it on all side, cut the gas to two of the burned and closed the lid. 20 minute later, I turned the meat around and closed the lid.
20 minutes after that the instructions said that the meat should have been done. Mine was still mostly raw, especially on the inside. So I turned the meat over and did another quarter of a turn and closed the lid. 20 minutes later with the temperature hovering around 300 degrees I turned the meat again, certain that it was still raw. I continued in this was for the better part of three hours, the smell of roasting garlic and lamb wreathed in wood smoke driving me insane.
After three hours I was still not terribly convinced that it was done. But no longer able to wait, I turned up the grill, brushed the outside with a mixture of lemon juice and honey to promote browning and roasted it to a deep caramel.
As it sat ready and resting I fretted over weather or not the meat was dry on the outside and raw on the inside, of if I had become over creative on the spices. The 15 minute wait was agony. Even setting the table and laying everything out just didn’t take the edge off.
Only when I was able to cut the butcher’s twine and begin slicing the roast did I breathe a sigh of relief. It was slightly pink in the middle, a lovely medium rare. The outside meat was done but not so cooked that it was dry and the whole roast was crowed with a crust of deep bronze.
In a word, it was perfect!
So tender that it could nearly be cut with a fork. The marinade had leached out most of the gaminess, leaving behind the pleasant flavor of fresh lamb. Even the juices which I sopped up with some farmer’s market fresh baked bread were heavenly.
I had broken the family roast curse.
It was delicious.
And though it is obviously not something that can be made casually this would be an excellent special occasion dish.
Please do not be intimidated by the length of the recipe, it really isn’t difficult.
Garlic Roasted Herbed Lamb
1 boneless leg of lamb, trimmed of fat and silver skin
3 tablespoons of salt
2 tablespoons fresh rosemary, hopped finely
1 tablespoon fresh or dried thyme, crushed
1 tablespoon dried or fresh oregano, crushed
¼ cup olive oil
1 head garlic, peeled and crushed
Zest and juice of 1 large or two small lemons
2 teaspoon pepper
2 cups white wine (what ever you like to drink)
¼ cup honey or sugar
2 heads garlic
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 ½ tablespoons honey
1 teaspoon salt
Remaining lemon juice reserve from marinade
1 tablespoon honey, maple syrup or sugar
1 day before:
Wash the lamb and remove any visible fat or silver skin. Pat dry.
In a small bowl, combine herbs, salt, olive oil, honey and garlic. Mix thoroughly until a paste forms. Add the lemon zest and half of the juice; reserve the rest of the juice for the glaze. Mix thoroughly and rub the past into the lamb, both inside and out. Massage the past into the lamb for a few minute. Then place the lamb into a large plastic bag and add enough wine so that when the bag is closed the lamb is covered. Seal the bag tightly and refrigerate over night.
Roast the garlic:
Cut the top third off of the head of garlic and drizzle with olive oil. Wrap in foil and bake at 400 until browned and buttery soft. In my toaster oven this took about 45 minutes.
Soak woodchips if using.
Remove the lamb from the fridge and allow to come to room temperature.
Squeeze all of the cloves out of the heads of garlic and mix with salt and honey. Mash with a fork until a past forms.
Wrap the woodchips in two layers of foil. Poke hole on one side. Place the woodchip packet, hole side up below the grill grates, as close to the heating element as possible. Preheat your grill turning all of the burners to high.
Remove the lamb from the marinade and pat dry. Smear the roasted garlic stuffing on the inside, making sure to rub it into every crevice. Roll the lamb up so that it forms a fairly uniform roast. Tie with cotton butcher’s twine (if you can’t find any ask your butcher) so that the roast keeps its shape.
Once the grill is hot, clean it and oil well. Using tongs, place the roast onto the grate. Close the lid and allow to brown for 3-4 minutes. Turn a quarter of a turn and repeat. Continue until all four sides have been browned.
Turn off one or two of the burners, leaving only one burner running on high (the foil packet with woodchips should be over this burner). Place the over the burner that are off with one of the ends towards the operating burner. Close the lid and allow to cook for 18-20 minutes. Then flip the roast onto the other side and rotate so that the other end is facing the fire. Cook for 18-20 minutes.
Once the ends are browned, turn the roast parallel with the fire. Turn over and rotate the lamb every 20 minutes until ready. If the outsize is looking dry, baste it with the lemon juice and honey mixture.
Cook until the internal temperature reached 140 degrees. Remove from flame and cover. Allow the roast to rest for 10-15 minutes so that the juices redistribute evenly.
Remove the twine and slice to server.
Leftovers make excellent sandwiches.