If my mother has any claims to fame as a hostess (they’re legion, believe me), numero uno is her way with lamb: rosy, rosemary-scented Easter roasts, mustard-rubbed racks and butterflied legs, grilled to a robust tenderness. It’s no surprise, then, that I have an abiding love of lamb, as an eater and a cook, though it wasn’t until just last weekend that I worked up the nerve to grill a whole leg by myself. Turns out, it doesn’t take much more attention than flipping burgers, and a meat thermometer removes all the guesswork of when to pull the lamb off the heat. (I will admit to nervously hovering over the grill, jabbing at the defenseless meat and worrying that I might overcook such a precious purchase. If you can’t trust your instincts, trust your thermometer.)
Ask your butcher to leave the fat but remove the bone and butterfly the meat, so it lays flat like an open book. Marinate overnight in a flavor-packed rub to season and enhance the lamb’s distinctive, earthy flavor; if you want to up the garlic quotient (why not?) make several slits in the meat and stuff with thin slices of garlic before adding the rub. You can skewer the meat, as my mother recommends, to keep the ends from curling up and cooking unevenly, though I was skewer-less an hour before my dinner party and just went for it anyway. I heeded some other good advice on keeping a spray bottle handy (a glass of water works just as well) for putting out any flare-ups. And oh, was that lamb fantastic! Mom would be so proud.
Grilled Leg of Lamb
- 2 teaspoons dried savory
- 2 teaspoons dried oregano
- 2 tablespoons fresh thyme, chopped
- 3 tablespoons fresh rosemary, chopped
- 3 tablespoons fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped
- 1 teaspoon onion granulates or powder
- 4-5 anchovy fillets
- 5-6 fat garlic cloves
- 1 1/2 tablespoons + 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
- 2 teaspoons fresh-cracked black pepper
- 3 tablespoons whole-grain Dijon mustard
- 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- one 5 pound leg of lamb, boneless and butterflied
Prepare the rub: in a small bowl, mix the first six ingredients. On a cutting board or in mortar, sprinkle the anchovy and garlic with 1/4 teaspoon salt; chop and smash (with the pestle or the back of your knife) the mixture into a paste. Add the anchovy-garlic paste to the herbs and add the remaining salt, pepper, mustard and olive oil. Mix to combine. Spread the rub all over the butterflied lamb and marinate in the fridge for several hours or overnight.
Bring the lamb to room temperature for an hour and a half. Preheat the grill to high heat. (If using charcoal, bank the briquettes to one side to create a hot zone and a cooler area. When you can hold your hand over the banked side for only 1-2 seconds, the grill’s ready.) Place the lamb fat side down and sear, about 12 minutes per side, covered. Lower the heat to indirect (or move to the cooler side of the charcoal grill) and cook, covered, until the temperature reaches 125 degrees in the thickest part of the lamb. (The time will vary according to the thickness of your lamb and your grill’s temperature, but mine took about 45 minutes to cook, including searing.) Let the meat rest, loosely tented with foil, for 15-20 minutes. Carve against the grain and serve.
Note: taken off the grill at 125 degrees, the lamb will continue to cook as it rests and end up beautifully bright and rosy inside, just past rare into medium-rare territory; take it off at 135 degrees if you prefer yours a little more done.