Friday, May 27, 2011

Grilled Butterflied Leg of Lamb with Mint Gremolata

Most weekends this spring, I've been butterflying legs of lamb, marinating them in a mixture of garlic, lemon and herbs, and grilling them for the week's dinners and lunches. Laird is happy with the arrangement because the lamb is tasty and he doesn't have to do any of the work. I'm happy because it's all very easy and, well, Laird's happy.

Did you read between the lines in the paragraph above?

That's right. I do the grilling in our family, not my husband.

He used to. When we were dating, he'd invite me over for grilled Cajun salmon or rib eye with mashed potatoes and vegetables. But as soon as he slipped a wedding ring on my finger, BAM!, he forgot how to grill (and cook, mostly). But I'm (mostly) not complaining. Before we were married I wasn't accustomed to cooking dinner every night, and never cooked on the grill. (I was scared to even light it. It's a gas grill, and igniting gas makes me nervous.) Besides, I considered grilling to be a decidedly male pursuit.

But I conquered my fear of gas explosions and quickly found my footing. And something surprising happened: I've grown as a cook. By stepping outside my comfort zone -- the stove top and oven -- I've expanded my repertoire of seasonings, techniques and cuts of meat.

Last weekend I even kept my cool -- and kept on grilling -- when The Headless Hound emerged from the bushes behind the grill with a mouse in her jaws. And although you won't find me shrieking or jumping onto a table when confronted with a rodent (I grew up on a mountain farm, after all), I'd be lying if I told you I wasn't shaken up by having to deal with a dog parading around not-quite-dead vermin.

Oh dear. This talk of mice is going to put you off, isn't it.


The point is, a year ago I never dreamed I'd butterfly and grill a leg of lamb. But that's exactly what I've been doing -- and loving -- these days. You should, too.

Or you could get your significant other to do it.

Either way, it's perfect for Memorial Day and every day.

Grilled Butterflied Leg of Lamb with Mint Gremolata
Makes about 8 1/2-lb. servings

This flavorful lamb is tender enough to be reheated for quick lunches and dinners throughout the week. Be sure to reserve some gremolata for serving; it also makes a fantastic dressing for vegetables and grains.

1 4-1/2 lb. boneless leg of lamb, butterflied (Your butcher or meat department should be able to do this for you. Obviously my idea of "butterfly" is to "cut into chunks.")
1/2 cup olive oil
1 tablespoon sea or kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper
Cloves from two heads of garlic, peeled (use less if desired)
Zest and juice of two lemons (Tip: zest the lemons before juicing.)
1 cup fresh parsley leaves
1/2 cup fresh mint leaves

1. Rinse the lamb and pat it dry. Trim excess fat to about 1/4 inch and score it (as pictured, above). Place the lamb in a large bowl or shallow dish and set aside.

2. Make the gremolata: place the olive oil, salt, pepper, garlic, lemon, parsley and mint in the bowl of a food processor or blender and process until a loose paste forms (the mixture will be like runny pesto). Reserve about 1/4 cup of the mixture for serving.

3. Pour the gremolata over the lamb, turning and rubbing the lamb pieces to coat. At this point, you can cover the lamb and let it marinate in the refrigerator for up to two days, or marinate it at room temperature for up to two hours. Either way, the lamb should be at or near room temperature when you grill it.

4. When you're ready to cook the lamb, heat your grill to medium. Remove the lamb from the marinade, scraping off excess marinade (it burns easily). Place the lamb on the grill, cover and cook for about 10-15 minutes or until nicely charred (the marinade will smoke and flame a bit as it cooks). Leave the lamb alone; moving and turning meat on the grill tends to make it stick, inhibits grill marks, and toughens it. Turn the lamb over and cook for about 10 minutes on the other side, or until nicely charred and a meat thermometer inserted into the center of the thickest part registers 145 degrees F for medium-rare. (The temperature will rise to 160 as it rests.)

5. Remove the lamb from the grill and set it on a plate or platter to rest for about 10 minutes. I like to place grilled meat on a wire rack set over a baking sheet (see photo, below) and rest it in a warm (150 to 200 degree F) oven. I like to maintain my hard-earned char and grill marks, and find that putting meat on a plate and tenting it with foil can result in it steaming and becoming soggy on the underside where it rests in its juices. Any juices that collect on the baking sheet can be drizzled over the meat when served.

6. Slice lamb across the grain and serve with reserved gremolata. It's also great with tzatziki. (Trader Joe's is divine if you're not up to making your own.)

For weekday lunches, Laird reheats the lamb slices and wraps them in warmed flatbread with sliced red onion, tzatziki and crumbled feta. Yum.


  1. Maggie, this looks absolutely divine. I love lamb, but we hardly ever cook it because it is soooo expensive here! Great post, thanks! Martha

  2. as much as i dont eat meat, that sure does look deeelicious

  3. Martha: I'm thrilled you've visited and left a comment here! Yes, lamb is expensive here so I can't imagine the price in Switzerland. The marinade/sauce is delicious with chicken, fish, beef, etc. Let me know if you try it with lamb or otherwise.

    Stew: I'm totally kicking around the idea of roasted leg of tofu with garlic, lemon and mint. Okay, maybe potatoes. Or chickpeas.