I created a Greek-inspired lamb recipe. The Greek influence shouldn’t be too surprising – I’m always looking to regional flavors for my recipes. But the leg of lamb part – that’s something new for EatingPlaces.
Earlier this month I was invited to participate in the Second Annual American Lamb Pro-Am. Bloggers from the Greater Boston Area are invited to create an original recipe featuring lamb. After the recipes are posted, people vote for their favorite recipe. Voting has already started and will continue through April 26. To vote, click here. Based on the votes, top recipe-creators continue on to be paired with an amazing local chef and cook for folks as a team at the culminating lamb extravaganza American Lamb Pro-Am event on May 19. And Boston Chefs asked me to be a contestant!
So this week I picked up a 9-pound leg of lamb from the Boston Chefs Lamb Pick-Up Party at Tavern Road in South Boston. That’s a LOT of lamb! I had a great time meeting folks from Boston Chefs – Paul Schiavone (CEO) and Kate Vandeveld (Events Coordinator) – who are coordinating the Lamb Pro-Am event, and enjoying a cocktail and lamb apps from Tavern Road. More on Tavern Road another time, but for now, onto the recipes!
This meal has a few steps, but much of it can be done a two or three days in advance. If you like how this recipe sounds, you can help me get to the next level by voting here beginning on Wednesday. Plus, if I’m a finalist, I’ll cook this recipe for you at the live event!
Roasted Lamb with Mint Fennel Tzatziki and Spring Green Salad
There are three main components to this dish: the lamb, tzatziki sauce, and greens with pickled onions. The onions, tzatziki, and herb marinade need to be made in advance, so I’ll begin with those:
Quick-Pickled Red Onions
1 1/2 cups white vinegar
1/4 cup rice vinegar
3/4 cup water
1/4 cup sugar
3 bay leaves
hot pepper of any sort (I used 2 dried pequin peppers)
3 red onions, cut into thin rounds
Combine the white vinegar, rice vinegar, water, sugar, bay leaves, and pepper in a pot and bring to a boil. Add the onions (I did this in two batches so they were completed covered with liquid) and cook just until the purple edges turn pink.
Stored in the refrigerator they will keep for about two weeks, if you don’t eat them first!
Fennel and Mint Tzatziki
Blend all ingredients except for the fennel in a food processor. Once completely combined, stir in the shaved fennel. Cover and chill in the refrigerator for at least 6 hours. Will keep for about 4 days.
This is enough marinade for a 3-4 pound piece of lamb. If working with a piece over 5 pounds, double the recipe.
Blend all ingredients together in a food processor. Put aside while you prepare your leg of lamb (see below).
The star of the show, although I must stay the other components of this dish really hold their own as well. Give yourself enough time (at least 30 minutes) to trim the fat and tough connective tissue from the lamb. Removing these pieces is worth the investment and, once you get comfortable with the process, it’s kind of fun. I completely lost track of time dividing up the huge piece of meat into clean smaller pieces.
Set up your work station for cleaning the lamb. I worked on a baking sheet with sides that was covered with a layer of paper towels. Using a sharp knife, kitchen sheers, and my hands, I slowly worked off the pieces of fat and anything else that wasn’t meat, putting the pieces into a bowl. You won’t be able to remove everything, but once you get started your bowl will begin to fill up fairly quickly. As you work, you’ll see that large pieces of meat separate when you remove the fat. This is fine, as you’ll be wrapping everything up with string into a little bundle.
Once you have the pieces of meat, put them together into a log. With your kitchen string sitting in a small pot next to you (I learned this from Chef Gordon Ramsay), wrap the string horizontally around the meat and tie a knot, leaving a foot-long tail. Then, make a loop with the side of the string connected to the larger ball, slide the loop over the log and drag it closest to you, pulling it tight. Continue making loops until the entire package is secure. For a great video on the process, go to 0:47 in this video.
Once your lamb is bundled up, rub the marinade all over it, wrap in plastic, and put in the fridge overnight or up to two days.
Cooking the Lamb
Pre-heat your oven to 350F. Add a little vegetable oil to a cast-iron skillet or other large oven-proof pan. Set burner to medium-high until the oil is hot. Place the lamb in the oil and brown each side (about 2 minutes for each side).
Transfer the pan into the oven and set your timer for roughly 20 minutes per pound of meat. I was cooking three pounds, so at around 45 minutes I checked the temperature and, sure enough, it needed another 15 minutes.
Your thermometer should read at least 135F. For detailed information about lamb cooking and safety, look here.
When you reach the desired temperature, take the lamb out of the oven and tent some foil over the roast. Let sit for about 20 minutes (the lamb will continue cooking and juices will settle).
THEN…last step – put together a simple salad and plate your masterpiece!
Spring Green Salad
Toss together arugula and radicchio with a few splashes of extra virgin olive oil, salt, and pepper. Plate greens and then add peas and onions on top.
If you’d like to plate this as a meal, see the top image. Or, if you’re looking for a small app, you could do something like the image below. Enjoy!