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Thursday, April 12, 2007

Cumin-Mint Leg of Lamb

Last week I was developing a hankering for grilled leg of lamb, but didn't succumb to it until I got this recipe from Weber in an email.

The boneless leg I prepared weighed five pounds, so I doubled the recipe for the paste. I deviated by using a small food processor instead of a mortar and pestle, and it turned out just fine.

One of those little plastic containers of fresh mint that they sell at the grocery provided enough mint leaves to cover the lamb and make the sauce. (As it turned out, we used the sauce on our crushed baked fingerling potatoes -- the lamb was sufficiently delicious without it.)

Although this recipe doesn't call for it, I always pound an unrolled boneless leg of lamb into a uniform thickness at the beginning of the preparation process so it will cook more evenly. My tool of choice for this is an Estwing four-pound sledge hammer, available at fine hardware stores everywhere.

Cumin-Mint Leg of Lamb

Paste

2 teaspoons whole cumin seed
1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
3 garlic cloves
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 boneless leg of lamb, 2-1/2 to 3 pounds
1/3 cup tightly packed fresh mint leaves

Sauce

1 cup sour cream
1/4 cup Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh mint
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1. Using a mortar and pestle, pound the cumin seed and peppercorns into tiny pieces. Add the garlic, salt, oregano, and red pepper flakes. Pound the seasonings into tiny pieces. Add the olive oil and lemon juice. Mix to create a paste.

2. Carefully remove any excess fat and sinew from both sides of the lamb. Place the lamb, cut side up, on a clean work surface. The meat needs to be a fairly uniform, 1 to 1-1/2 inches thick. If any sections are thicker, cut them off and cook them separately or make shallow cuts on the bias into the thicker section and spread or “butterfly” the meat into a thinner section. Spread half of the paste evenly over the inside of the lamb and the other half on the outside of the lamb. Lay the mint leaves down the middle of the inside. Tightly roll the lamb into a long cylinder. Using kitchen twine, tie the lamb at 1-1/2-inch intervals. Trim off the loose ends of the twine. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 to 2 hours.

3. In a small bowl whisk the sauce ingredients until smooth. Let the sauce and the lamb sit at room temperature for 20 to 30 minutes before grilling.

4. Brush the cooking grate clean. Grill the lamb, fat side down first, over direct medium heat, with the lid closed as much as possible, until golden brown all over, 10 to15 minutes, turning once or twice and rotating as needed for even cooking. Move the lamb over indirect medium heat and cook to your desired doneness, 20 to 30 minutes for medium rare, rotating as needed for even cooking. Remove the lamb from the grill and let rest for about 10 minutes before slicing. Remove the twine. Cut the lamb crosswise into 1/2-inch slices. Serve warm or at room temperature with the sauce.

We served this with the Lagone Super Tuscan, which complemented it perfectly.
M. Zane Grey, 9:00 AM