Leg of Lamb with Fresh Mint and Garlic
Lamb is the classic spring meat, the thing to make people nod and say "yes, meat is seasonal, think about spring lamb."
Sheep ranchers in our area can keep flocks going year round, but it's tougher in the winter to keep the animals in an ideal state for eating, so many don't bring animals to market until the spring, after they've had awhile to feed on new green grass. It's also a planned art to keep them fat through the dry season. Spring starts looking pretty magical if you're raising them old-school. As with most recipes I write, the proportions here are flexible--feel free to play.
As with most recipes I write, the proportions here are flexible--feel free to play. Start with a leg of lamb. Get in there with a knife and cut the bone out, or, better yet, ask your butcher to remove it for you. I've deboned a number of lamb legs in my day and I've bought a number of boneless lamb legs; they both end up looking a bit of a mess, but one is a lot less work.
For the leg of lamb
- 1 leg of lamb, approximately 6 pounds or more
- 8 small spring onions
- 2 lemons, zested
- 1 cup fresh minth
- 2 garlic cloves
- 1 teaspoon sea salt
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 1 bunch radishes
For the rice pilaf
- 2 stalks green garlic, chopped
- 2 shallots, chopped
- olive oil
- 1 1/2 cup long grain white rice
- 3 cups chicken stock
- 2 cups shelled peas or fava beans
- Handful fresh spring herbs: dill, mint, chervil or parsely
Trim any giant slabs of fat from the leg--this dish is best on the grill and too much fat dripping down will cause flare-ups and grill fires and create more char than perfectly brown and crispy lamb.
Trim about eight small spring onions (green onions work well too), removing their root ends and the darkest top parts of their leaves. Roughly chop them and put them in a blender or food processor. Grate or microplane in the zest of two lemons and add about one cup fresh mint leaves. If you want, a clove or two of garlic is good, too. Add about one teaspoon of sea salt and a quarter cup of olive oil. Whirl it all together until smooth. Depending on the exact onions used and the nature of your particular appliance, you may need to add a few tablespoons of water to get a real puréed mixture going.
Take the mint purée and spread it all over the lamb. Cover and chill at least overnight and up to two days.
About an hour before you put it on the grill, take the lamb out of the fridge to take the chill off.
Heat your grill--you want a steady medium-high heat, where you can hold your hand about an inch above the cooking grate for two or three seconds before it feels too hot.
Set the lamb on the grill, cover, and cook about 15 minutes--the downside will be wonderfully browned and crispy. Turn, cover and cook until the second side is also browned and the meat is done to your liking, about 10 to 15 minutes. Remove lamb, loosely cover, and let sit at least 20 minutes for it to finish cooking and for the juices to redistribute themselves evenly throughout the meat.
Serve sliced, with fresh-trimmed spring onions and radishes alongside.
It is also particularly lovely with a rice pilaf made by sautéing a few finely chopped green garlics and a shallot or two in a few tablespoons of olive oil or butter, adding 1 1/2 cups long-grain white rice and cooking, stirring, to coat the rice, until the rice turns opaque.
Add three cups chicken stock and about two cups shelled green peas, fresh chickpeas and/or shelled fava beans; cover, reduce heat to a simmer, cook for 15 minutes, take off the heat and leave covered for five minutes, the fluff with a fork and toss in a few handfuls of chopped spring herbs like dill, mint, chervil or parsley.
This content was published in the Spring 2012 issue of Edible San Francisco Magazine. © 2012 Edible San Francisco.