Everyday Gourmet10/30/08

By Kim Dannies

A leg up on lamb

The weather is brisker and it’s time to turn our merry-making indoors. For a cozy buffet, a grilled leg of lamb provides a stunning main attraction. I like to serve it with goat cheese scalloped potatoes, balsamic-glazed roasted beets and maple butternut squash. For a quick herb-infused sauce to serve on the side, I simply strain and boil the lamb marinade and add a bit of crème fraiche.

There is a special time-tested technique to grilling the somewhat unwieldy, yabba-dabba-doo leg of lamb. The meat is grilled for exactly 11 minutes on each side in a closed, medium-hot grill. The lamb is then removed from the grill and set to rest in sealed foil for 20 minutes and up to 2 hours. Because of the uneven terrain of a butterflied leg of lamb, this method yields a nicely charred exterior, and perfectly cooked slices in the rare to medium range — just enough variety to please the whole crowd.

What’s the best part of this meal besides the show-stopping food? The all-important do-ahead factor: grilled lamb is resting while the side dishes are popped into the oven before guests even come through the door. The scene is a warm welcome, intoxicating aromas and relaxed hosts — now that’s a leg up on hospitality anytime of the year!

Herb marinated leg of lamb

(serves 10 to 12)

Order a 7- to 8-pound butterfly leg of lamb (the bone is removed.) Place lamb in a large non-metallic bowl or double encase 2 1-gallon zip lock bags.

In a food processor mince 6 cloves of garlic. Microwave 1 8-ounce jar of mint jelly for 30 seconds; add to processor. Pulse 20 seconds. Add 2 tablespoons of olive oil; a fistful each of de-stemmed fresh rosemary and mint leaves; 1 cup Dijon mustard; 3 tablespoons soy sauce; and generous pinches of kosher salt and freshly ground pepper. Process 60 seconds. Pour the marinade over the lamb. Marinate lamb for 1 to 3 days, flipping occasionally to incorporate the marinade.

Heat grill to medium-high, then lower to medium hot when ready to grill. Strain marinade into a saucepan and simmer over medium heat for at least 15 minutes. Stir in 4 ounces of crème fraiche, and adjust for seasoning. Pour into a gravy server.

Grill lamb for 11 minutes on each side, turning with tongs, for a total of 22 minutes maximum (trust me.) Place grilled meat in a double layer of heavy-duty aluminum foil lining a cookie sheet and seal tightly. Lamb must rest at least 20 minutes before carving and will hold up to 2 hours.

Kim Dannies is a graduate of La Varenne Cooking School in France. She lives in Williston with her husband, Jeff; they have three college-aged daughters. For archived Everyday Gourmet columns go to kimdannies.com.