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Herbed Grill-Roasted Lamb

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Serves 8-10

  • by from Fine Cooking
    Issue 27

Juicy slices of herbed lamb are reason enough to try grill-roasting. Since grill-roasting isn't an exact science (variables like wind and cool weather can slow down the cooking time), round out your menu with dishes that don't require split-second timing.

  • 1/2 cup lightly packed flat-leaf parsley or basil leaves
  • 2 Tbs. fresh rosemary leaves
  • Grated zest of 1 lemon
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 2 Tbs. cracked or crushed black peppercorns
  • 2 Tbs. lightly crushed mustard seeds
  • 2 Tbs. olive oil
  • 2 tsp. salt
  • 1 5-lb. boneless butterflied leg of lamb
Make the herb rub and roll the lamb

Combine the parsley or basil, rosemary, lemon zest, garlic, peppercorns, mustard seeds, olive oil and salt in a small food processor (or mortar and pestle) and process to a smooth paste. 

Lay the lamb flat on your work surface (it should be roughly rectangular) and trim any visible sinew, but don't trim anything that's holding together sections of the leg. Spread about a third of the rub on the surface of the lamb meat. Roll up the lamb tightly, from one short end to the other, and tie the roast snugly at 1-inch intervals with kitchen twine. Spread the remaining herb rub all over the rolled, tied roast.

Grill-roast the lamb:

Prepare a fire on one side of the grill using enough charcoal to create a fire bed that’s about 6 inches deep and two to three times the width of the roast. Make sure that the vents are clear of ash before lighting the fire. With the grill uncovered, allow the fire to burn down until a light layer of white ash covers some of the coals and the rest are red-hot, 35 to 45 minutes.

grill

Arrange the grate so that the side opening (if there is one) is aligned with the coals in case you need to add charcoal later. Let the grate heat up for 5 minutes and then set the roast on the side that’s farthest from the fire; set an oven thermometer next to it. Cover the grill, close the vents most of the way, and cook.

Check the grill temperature after 20 minutes. It should be between 325° and 375°F. Adjust if necessary by opening or closing the vents (more air will cause the fire to burn hotter and more quickly; less air will make the temperature drop.) If the fire seems to be burning out at any time, add more charcoal and open the vents a bit.

After about 45 minutes, use tongs or a meat fork to turn and rotate the roast to help it cook evenly. Turn the roast so the side that was farthest from the fire is now closest to it, but keep it on the cool side of the grill.

grilled lamb

Check the roast with an instant-read thermometer to determine when it’s done; the middle of the thickest section, should read 125°F for medium rare (about 45 minutes after turning the roast). When the lamb has reached the desired doneness, use tongs or a meat fork to roll it briefly over the hot side of the fire to sear the outside, turning it until all sides are seared, about 2 minutes per side. Cover the lamb with foil and let it rest for 10 to 15 minutes before carving.

grill-roasted lamb

Photo: Ben Fink

Very Good. It was too cold to grill, so I roasted it in a 375 oven for 45 minutes, then switched to convection bake at 375 for ~20 minutes more, to 130 degrees internal temp at the center. I used more than 1/2 cup chopped basil and parsley; lots of fresh rosemary, about 2 teaspoons lemon zest, and didn't grind the peppercorns or mustard seeds before putting them in the food processor. Had to use the mortar and pestle afterward to crush the seeds. There were few leftovers, even my grade school aged kids ate good helpings, but my husband commented that the whole peppercorns and excessive lemon zest were a bit much for him, and the herbs didn't stand out as much as he'd have liked. Next time I'll add more fresh herbs, cut back on the lemon and be sure to put the peppercorns through the mill first. I served this with steamed haricots verts, pan-seared fresh artichokes with sherry & thyme, garlic-roasted potato wedges, and a Bibb salad with a shallot vinaigrette. Delicious.

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