Friday, June 4, 2010

Grilled Leg of Lamb with Cinnamon-Cardamom Pilaf

(serves eight)

Because you begin marinating the lamb the night before, this recipe makes an easy weeknight meal. But given the high cost of lamb, I usually reserve it for dinner parties. The ease of preparation is still an important benefit, though, because it allows me to spend more time with my guests. The pilaf—which tastes great with the lamb, picking up its Indian flavors—is another easy, make-ahead recipe.

The Lamb
small butterflied leg of lamb, about 3 pounds

The Marinade
⅓ c canola oil
juice of two limes
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground coriander
½ tsp cayenne pepper
½ tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 tsp kosher salt
1 bunch cilantro, stems trimmed
2 large shallots, peeled and coarsely chopped
3 cloves garlic, peeled and coarsely chopped
2-inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and coarsely chopped

The Pilaf
1 medium onion
4 Tbs olive oil
2 c long-grain white rice
6-inch cinnamon stick, broken into about 6 pieces
10 whole cardamom pods
4 c chicken broth
1 tsp kosher salt

1. The night before, prep the lamb by trimming it of excess fat, connective tissue, and silverskin. Also, if any thick lobes remain, slice them as described in the tip below to create a more even thickness throughout. (Don’t worry if you end with three or four disconnected chunks of meat.) Finally, score the meat with shallow, parallel cuts about an inch apart. (These allow the marinade to penetrate.)

2. Combine the marinade ingredients in the jar of a blender and puree until smooth.

3. Place the lamb in a large glass or Pyrex dish. Rub the marinade into the meat, cover the dish with plastic wrap, and refrigerate overnight.

4. The next day, as dinnertime approaches, begin the pilaf by chopping the onions and sweating them in the olive oil in a large, heavy saucepan set over medium-low heat. When the onion has softened but not yet begun to brown (about 5 minutes), add the rice, cinnamon, and cardamom. Cook, stirring often, for about a minute.

5. Add the chicken stock and salt. Turn up the heat to high and bring the stock to a boil. Let the stock reduce, uncovered, until it just covers the rice, about 5 minutes.

6. Reduce the heat to low, cover the pot tightly, and simmer for 15 minutes without lifting the lid. Remove the pot from the heat and let the pilaf rest for at least another 5 minutes without disturbing the lid. Fluff the rice4 before serving.

7. Meanwhile, prepare your grill. Sear both sides of the lamb for 2-3 minutes each on the grill’s hottest section. Then move the meat to a cooler section and let it cook until done to your taste (see tip below). You can use whatever marinade is left in the glass dish to baste the meat, if you like, but it’s not necessary.

8. Let the meat rest for about 10 minutes before carving.

• The process of butterflying removes the bone from the leg, producing a misshapen cut with many different thicknesses. Note, in particular, the large, thick lobes. The nice thing about the variation in thicknesses is that you end up with a good mix of rare and medium portions. But the variation can often be a little too great, with the thinner parts drying out before the thick lobes are done. To ameliorate this problem, I slice the lobes horizontally and open them up like a book, thereby reducing their thickness by half.

• I monitor doneness with an instant-read thermometer. A reading of 125 degrees Fahrenheit is quite rare. I aim for 135 degrees, which is pinkish rather than red.

• If you don't want to grill the lamb (or you want to make it during wintertime), broil the meat for about 10 minutes per side, basting with the marinade to keep it moist. Then roast it in a 375-degree oven until done to your taste, perhaps another 20 minutes.

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