Divide and Conquer

It’s been almost two months since I last posted a lamb recipe, so you know I’ve got some waiting in the wings. Sometimes I think Jeremy can’t walk past the boneless legs of lamb at Costco without picking one up, but I get really tired of braising or roasting them after a while. This time I split my leg in half and grilled it over two nights—part butterflied, and part chunked up for kebabs.

For the butterflied portion, I went with a hoisin marinade. The ingredients all scream Asian, but as one reviewer pointed out, the end result is a flavor that could be nudged in a variety of directions. I went slightly Mediterranean with the addition of a little dried rosemary, and served it with a baked potato and Mark Bittman’s sauteed mushrooms. Yes, you heard that right—I sliced up some mushrooms and sauteed them with a little garlic and white wine, no attempts to cut them into tiny bits or mask their flavor with cream. I don’t think I will ever agree that the smell of cooking mushrooms is second only to bacon; on the contrary, the smell alone is almost enough to make me change my mind about making them. However, I am proud to say that I ate some of the finished product without making horrible faces, even though room temperature mushrooms are really not appealing to me.

But the real point is that the lamb was delicious, and I will definitely keep this marinade in my arsenal; I suspect it would also be delicious on beef or pork. We did have some leftover, so I sliced it thin and served it over Asian garlic noodles (read: Jaden’s garlic-scallion noodles made with carrots, mushrooms, onions, peas, and a sprinkle of sesame seeds).

Grilled Hoisin-Marinated Butterflied Leg of Lamb

1/3 C hoisin sauce
3 T rice vinegar (not seasoned)
2 T soy sauce
2 T minced garlic
1/4 C minced scallions
1 T honey
1/2 tsp salt
a 2 to 2 1/2 pound piece of boneless leg of lamb, trimmed and butterflied

In a bowl whisk together hoisin sauce, vinegar, soy sauce, garlic, minces scallion, honey, and salt. Trim as much remaining fat as possible from lamb and in a shallow dish large enough to hold lamb flat spread marinade over both sides of it. Marinate lamb, covered and chilled, at least 4 hours or overnight.

Prepare grill. Bring lamb to room temperature and grill on an oiled rack set 5 to 6 inches over glowing coals 12 to 15 minutes on each side, or until meat thermometer registers 140°F. for medium-rare meat. (Alternatively, lamb may be broiled under preheated broiler about 4 inches from heat for approximately the same time on each side as for grilling.) Transfer lamb to a cutting board and let stand 20 minutes before carving. Holding a sharp knife at a 45° angle, cut lamb across grain into thin slices.

Source: Epicurious.

I still had half a leg of lamb in the fridge waiting to be used, so I decided to make that into kebabs. Ever since I first tasted the lamb brochettes at Marrakesh in Portland (which may, incidentally, have been my very first taste of lamb), I’ve been trying to duplicate that flavor at home, and I think I am getting closer. The meat was marinated in a simple spice blend, and threaded onto skewers with chunks of zucchini that I tossed with olive oil, lemon pepper and garlic. These went on the grill while I made pistachio-date couscous to serve under it.

Moroccan Lamb Brochettes with Zucchini and Pistachio-Date Couscous

2 lb piece of boneless leg of lamb, well-trimmed and cut into 1″ cubes
2 T ground cinnamon
2 tsp ground ginger
2 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp ground sweet paprika
1 T dried lemon zest
Kosher salt and pepper
Olive oil
1 large zucchini, cut into 1″ cubes
Lemon pepper
Garlic powder

1 C couscous
1 1/2 C chicken broth
1/2 C pistachios, shelled, roasted and coarsely chopped
1/2 C dates, chopped

For the lamb: Mix together the cinnamon, ginger, cumin, coriander, paprika and lemon zest with about 1/4 C olive oil in a large ziploc bag, add the lamb and toss to coat. Press out all the excess air and marinate in the refrigerator for 4 hours or up to overnight. Remove from the fridge before cooking to allow meat to come up to room temperature.

For the zucchini: When you remove the lamb from the fridge to come up to temperature, cut the zucchini into chunks; toss with olive oil to coat, and season to taste with lemon pepper, garlic powder and salt.

Thread alternating chunks of lamb and zucchini onto your skewers while your grill heats up (I use an electric tabletop grill). Grill the skewers, turning as necessary, until they are nicely charred on all sides; the zucchini should be tender, and the lamb should be about medium rare.

Meanwhile, bring the chicken stock to boiling in a medium saucepan; remove from the heat and stir in the couscous (if your dates are particularly dry, you can add them now as well). Allow to sit covered off the heat for about 5 minutes, until the liquid is absorbed. Fluff with a fork and stir in the pistachios and a drizzle of olive oil.

Source: Adapted from The Barbeque Hut and Everyday with Rachel Ray.

Update 4/16/10: Served these over the date couscous with sauteed sweet potatoes with ginger because we had no zucchini. They went together perfectly, and I’d make that combination again.

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