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Sunday, February 14, 2010

Mary Had A Little Lamb.....And He Went To Morocco

A lot of people cringe and snub their noses when they think about eating lamb. Maybe its because of the heavier, gamey taste that can come from some cuts. Or maybe its because they are cute, cuddly looking little creatures. Time to put both of those ideas to bed. Fact #1--Lamb has a stronger taste and needs to be paired with stronger flavors to help carry it. Fact #2--Lambs are actually evil little creatures that kick, bite and would probably kill you for the spare change in your pocket if they knew how. One actually stole my car yesterday. Both reasons are a good idea to have lamb for supper.

As I said before lamb needs big flavors to properly accompany its own strong taste. Classically lamb goes with mint jelly or garlic and rosemary or herbes de provence but I really like the rubs and marinades that originate in Africa. Charmoula is a Moroccan herb sauce that combines several regional ideas into one flavor packed punch and is a great partner for lamb. One of the best things about Charmoula is that it works very well as a marinade, baste and table sauce.

The cut I like best for the grill is a butterflied leg. Butterflying removes the heavy leg bone from the meat and leaves you with a 'open book' looking piece of meat. This increases the surface area of the meat which leads to more flavor penetration when marinading as well as more area to grill a tasty crust onto. You can buy boneless legs of lamb or have a butcher butterfly it for you if you dont know how to remove the leg bone yourself. Once you lay it out on your board make sure it lies as flat as possible. Use a good sharp knife to make more cuts into the meat along the line of the missing bone to make sure it lies flat.

*Prepare your Charmoula sauce as follows:
1/2 cups chopped parsley
1/2 chopped cilantro
3 cloves minced garlic
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon hot pepper flakes (or to taste)
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons water

Combine parsley, cilantro and garlic in a food processor and finely chop. Add salt, spices, juice, oil and water and process into a fine puree. Add more salt and lemon juice to taste as this sauce should be highly seasoned. This sauce tastes best when used within a few hours of making so if using it as a marinade and a table sauce you may want enough for a double batch.

Makes about 1 cup.

Reserve a small amount of the marinade for basting. Rub the marinade into the lamb with your hands and seal into a plastic bag, squezzing out as much air as you can. Marinade your lamb in the fridge for at least 2hours and up to 8 hours.

Heat your grill to medium high heat. Oil your grill. Place lamb fat side down and grill for 10-15 per side (med-rare). Lamb has a high fat content so watch for burning and flare ups. Move to a cooler part of the grill if it starts to burn. You want a lightly charred crust to form on the outside of the meat. During the last 5 minutes of grilling on each side brush on some of the reserved marinade. Your lamb has reached med-rare when it reads 145 degrees. Transfer to cutting board loosely cover with foil. Let meat rest for 10 minutes before slicing thinly on an angle. Serve with slightly warmed Charmoula sauce. This lamb goes great with grilled squashes, coucous, rice pilaf or bulgar wheat salad.

Try this out and see what you think. I gaurantee you that lambs will no longer be just cute and cuddly in your eyes!


Park Food Dude

*Charmoula recipe courtesy of the BBQ god Steven Raichlen

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