Lambs lamb in early spring, and New York farmersí markets already offer fresh local meat. Of course, one could just rub some chops with a cut garlic clove, lemon zest, oregano, and olive oil, and broil or grill a toothsome quickie. But for something quite special, consider this succulent leg of lamb, suitable for family or for entertaining. It takes only five or ten minutes to mix the marinade the night before, and broiling next day is quick and simple.
If you plan to feed only a few, have the butcher sell you half a leg (the meatier half), but retain all other quantities as is. Marinade becomes sauce after cooking, and there is never too much.
6-7 pound leg of lamb (or less), boned and butterflied*
large clove of garlic
¾ cup olive oil
¼ cup red wine vinegar
½ cup onion, chopped
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1½ teaspoons salt
½ teaspoon oregano
½ teaspoon basil
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 bay leaf, crushed
Overnight, for 6 to 8 people
Place the lamb fat-side down in a shallow glass, enamel or steel broiling pan (i.e., non-reactive). Mix the remaining ingredients together in a small bowl, and pour over the meat. Cover the pan tightly and refrigerate overnight, turning the meat at least once. Remove the dish from the refrigerator about an hour before cooking.
Preheat the broiler for 10 minutes. Place the meat with marinade fat-side up in the pan, and broil 3 to 4 inches from the heat for ten to fifteen minutes. Turn, baste and broil for another ten minutes. Remove from the broiler and make a small test incision to check whether the interior remains nice and pink (if it becomes brown inside it will be leathery!). If too rare, lower temperature to 425 degrees and roast in the oven for a few minutes, checking again for pinkness. Remove lamb to a cutting board, and slice into thin pieces. Serve the marinade on the side as a sauce.
This marinade serves nicely too to flavor and juice chunks of lamb for kebabs.
*If the leg doesnít reach you butterflied, and youíre game: slice straight down to and along the entire length of the bone, then continue to ease the meat in one piece from around its surface, hewing as close to the bone as possible. Lay the flesh cut-side up, and coax the meat flat by making shallow slits parallel to the erstwhile bone. The meat wonít broil evenly if it varies wildly thick and thin.
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Fabulous, organic, pasture-fed lamb, neatly butchered and packaged, may be ordered on the web at the link noted below. Last year they even sent me a special baby that had never tasted grass, only motherís milk. I rubbed it as suggested with a little basil, oregano, Dijon mustard, garlic and olive oil. Following day, with plenty of coal aflame in the Weber grill, we roasted it whole, grill lid closed, till an instant-read thermometer indicated 142 degrees. It didnít even taste like lamb, so delicate and pale and tender. Out of this world!