I was an adult before I had my first bite of lamb. I had no idea what I had been missing. When exactly lamb entered my life is a blur, but I remember it was a lamb chop -- tender, petite and rich on the tongue. For years, I played it safe, nibbling only on chops over and again, while ignoring the tasting possibilities from the leg, the shank and the shoulder.
For years, the idea of cooking lamb was way off my radar, and then cooking school hit me over the head and sent me down some kind of yellow brick road full of adventure, just like Dorothy.
I did have a bit of Scarecrow in me, but on my way to see the Wizard, I learned how to braise lamb shanks and grill chops and serve them with a redolent chimichurri sauce (garlic, parsley, cilantro, oregano, olive oil, white wine, lemon and salt, all whizzed up), rather than that dodgy old mint jelly. Shoulder went into curries, ground lamb onto kebabs, and slowly I got the hang of it.
The big leg o' lamb was my one remaining challenge, and last year at this time, I brought my sheepish self to the task at hand. The recipe that brought about a change of heart, comes from "Simple Soirees," by longtime food writer Peggy Knickerbocker; details are below.
The lamb is boned and butterflied (opened like a book), something you can ask the butcher to do. The meat is stuffed with a pungent tapenade mix of olives, anchovies, capers and garlic, and then rolled and tied up with twine. For this arts-and-crafts-challenged cook, I find the twining part the most difficult and humbling, but I get better at it every time.
A little extra salt and olive oil on the outside, and then the lamb goes into the oven for roasting. An hour later, you've got glam lamb.
All sliced up, it looks like a roulade, pretty enough for a party -- and easy enough to do at the last minute. In fact, I didn't get started last night until after six, and dinner was served two hours later.
Got a favorite lamb story or tip to share? Do so in the comments area below.
Butterflied Leg of Lamb Stuffed With Tapenade
From Simple Soirees by Peggy Knickerbocker
1/2 pound pitted olives of your choice
4-6 anchovies, rinsed and chopped
4 tablespoons capers, soaked, rinsed and chopped
1 clove garlic, roughly chopped
Pinch of cayenne
1 tablespoon leaves of fresh thyme (or 1 1/2 teaspoons dried)
1/4 cup olive oil
Place olives, anchovies, capers, garlic, cayenne and thyme into the bowl of a food processor (alternatively, use a mortar and pestle and pound ingredients) and pulse into a coarse puree. Add olive oil and pulse to combine. I also like to add the zest of a lemon or orange into the mix.
Makes about 1 cup tapenade; leftovers are likely.
1 3-6 pound leg of lamb, boned and butterflied (Ask butcher to do this. Estimate about one pound per person before bone is removed.)
1 bunch fresh thyme
Salt and pepper to taste
A few tablespoons olive oil
Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
Open butterflied lamb on flat work surface and salt the inside. Spread tapenade down the center, smoothing out so that middle portion of the meat is completely covered. Don't overstuff; leftover tapenade can be spread on baguette slices for a tasty snack at another time.
Roll meat lengthwise into a neat package with the ends tucked in. Wrap twine around the width and tie, repeating every few inches. Then wrap lengthwise at least twice. Spread thyme on bottom of roasting pan and place roast on top, cut side down.
Salt and pepper the outside and lather with olive oil. Cook lamb for 20 minutes, then reduce heat to 375 and roast for about an hour, or until meat thermometer reads between 125 and 135 degrees in the middle (where it's thick) -- this is medium rare. If you want medium, let it cook until 140 degrees. For a smaller roast, check doneness after 30 minutes, then continue checking every 15 minutes.
Let rest for 15 minutes. Carve crosswise into 1-inch slices.
Please email us to report offensive comments.
Posted by: cindy | March 28, 2007 11:53 AM
Posted by: Sparks | March 28, 2007 12:30 PM
Posted by: D Reed | March 28, 2007 12:32 PM
Posted by: Long Beach, CA | March 28, 2007 1:02 PM
Posted by: sus | March 28, 2007 1:07 PM
Posted by: Anonymous | March 28, 2007 1:12 PM
Posted by: Rita | March 28, 2007 1:33 PM
Posted by: Peapod | March 28, 2007 2:19 PM
Posted by: CY | March 28, 2007 2:48 PM
Posted by: Peapod | March 28, 2007 3:11 PM
Posted by: lamb-lover | March 28, 2007 3:34 PM
Posted by: phan | March 28, 2007 4:17 PM
Posted by: Karen | March 29, 2007 2:55 PM
Posted by: vaherder | April 2, 2007 10:07 AM
Posted by: John | April 2, 2007 1:57 PM
Posted by: LtCol George W. Murray USMC (ret) | April 4, 2007 3:26 PM
Posted by: Portland, Oregon | April 5, 2007 12:41 PM
Posted by: jen bruggink | April 5, 2007 12:56 PM
Posted by: Norman Campbell | April 5, 2007 1:05 PM
Posted by: KLNobles | April 6, 2007 8:51 AM
Posted by: Leatrice | April 14, 2007 8:50 PM
The comments to this entry are closed.