Lamb is just as approachable as beef, pork or chicken. You can grill it, skewer it, roast it and enjoy fistfuls of ribs. It loves to be dressed up in Moroccan, Thai, Greek and Mediterranean flavors (to name but a few). When I think of lamb I think gyros and mint jelly, rosemary and chickpeas. I think plain yogurt and cumin, garlic and lemons. So many options, and here I sit with a whole leg of lamb. What to do?
I have been holed up in my kitchen for weeks canning jams and chutneys, processing tomatoes and rhubarb, liquoring up peaches and braiding garlic. So when I was invited to participate in the Seattle-based American Lamb event, I went straight to my jar-lined pantry to find ‘just’ the right pairing. A second later I found: balsamic cherry chutney.
American Lamb Pro-Am is meant to highlight the multitude of ways you can prepare and enjoy lamb—and in this case the American Lamb Board has invited Seattle-based PRO chefs and AM (amateur) Seattle-based food bloggers to showcase their biggest and best lamb fixins’.
When they handed me a lamb leg (boneless, rolled and tied) to play with, I resisted rubbing it with garlic and rosemary and roasting it whole. Instead, I was determined to push myself to learn more about lamb, and appreciate all my ‘leggy’ options.
It was a big hunk of meat. I took the lamb and trimmed some of the fat (which I saved for later) and the silver skin. I unrolled the leg, then made two incisions—one on the right and one on the left—to ‘butterfly’ the leg. I wanted the lamb to lie like an open book, with the goal of having the meat be more or less the same thickness.
I cut the lamb into thirds, then chose the ‘flattest’ and most uniformly thick piece for my recipe. I covered the lamb with arugula, goat cheese and cherry chutney. I rolled, tied and seared the leg, then placed it on a bed of baby potatoes and red onion wedges. It roasted for about an hour, until a thermometer measured 145. It rested—releasing some of its amazing juices—then I cut large steaks and served it on a small pile of potatoes, surrounded with Cherry Lamb Jus.
For the sauce: I bought a few lamb shank bones and made a small batch of lamb stock. With some rendered lamb fat and flour, I made a roux (details for stock and fat to follow), then added the stock and the yummy run-off/juices from the roasted lamb. I finished the sauce with salt, pepper and a pat of butter.
Goat cheese & Cherry Chutney stuffed lamb leg w/rosemary roasted potatoes & cherry lamb Jus
1/3 leg of lamb, butterflied and laid flat
cherry chutney (recipe, below)
grape seed oil/vegetable oil/rendered lamb fat (any one of these or a combination is fine—for searing)
small new potatoes
1 medium red onion
2 sprigs rosemary
Cherry Lamb Jus (see below)
Get your lamb stock going first, then: lay lamb leg flat, cover with arugula, goat cheese and chutney. Season inside with S&P, roll and tie. Season outside with S&P. Heat small amount of oil/fat in hot pan and sear rolled leg until browned on each side. Remove from pan and set aside. Finely chop rosemary, cut onion into wedges and toss potatoes/onions with rosemary, olive oil, S&P. Place leg on top and tuck into oven at 375 for 1 hour. Cook until internal temperature reads 145. Remove and let rest in pan.
for the Lamb Stock:
3 small lamb shanks
1 bay leaf
2 sprigs rosemary
1-2 tsp black peppercorns
3-4 cloves garlic
1 carrot roughly chopped
1 large celery chopped
Roast lamb shanks on small sheet tray under broiler (500). Turn with tongs every 5 minutes; total time 20 min. Remove from oven. Place shanks into pot, and add the chopped onion, celery and carrot to the small sheet tray. Drop oven to 375 and let sizzle for 5-10 minutes until caramelized. Add them to the shank pot, along with peppercorns and garlic, bay and rosemary. Cover with cold water (just cover shanks, plus about an inch of water). Let simmer (not boil) for a few hours. Strain.
for the Cherry Lamb Jus:
1/4 cup flour
1/4 cup rendered lamb fat
3 T white wine or vermouth
3 cups of lamb stock
juice from lamb roasting pan (all that yumminess mingling with the potatoes)—should be 1/2 cup or so
1 T cherry chutney
1 T butter
Render lamb fat: take a few hunks of the lamb fat (1/4- 1/3 cup) and put in pan over low heat. Let it release its fat into liquid form—about 20 minutes. In a skillet place 1/4 cup of the rendered fat, warm then add 1/4 cup flour and stir to blend. Let cook for 2-3 minutes; add vermouth and let simmer until only 1 T is left. Add stock (if you have less than 3 cups just add water; if you have extra save it in case you need to add more/increase amount of sauce) and pan drippings/juice from roasting pan. Let simmer for 10-20 minutes until it reduces and thickens. Season to taste with S&P—strain so sauce is smooth—return to pan and whisk in 1 T butter. Off heat and serve.
Balsamic Cherry Chutney
makes 3-4 half pint jars.
4 cups stemmed, pitted sweet cherries
1 cup small diced onion
1 cup balsamic vinegar
1 cup honey
1 cup raisins (dark or golden)
1/4 cup grated lemon peel
2 T lemon juice
2 tsp salt
1 tsp fresh/coarsely ground pepper
1/2 tsp cardamom
1/8 tsp chili powder
Place all ingredients in a pot and cook over medium high heat, stirring occasionally so it doesn’t stick. I mostly ignore it for 20-30 minutes until it thickens. Place in hot, sterilized jars and leave 1/2 inch headroom. Wipe rims, place on new lids and hot water bath/process for 10 minutes. GREAT on lamb burgers and tucked in leg of lamb.
Round one of this American Lamb Pro-Am Event: 9 legs of lamb have been prepped and played with by some fantastic bloggers. You can check out all the lamb inspiration and VOTE for your fave between AUG 24 – 31. Round two: the top 4 bloggers are paired with 4 Seattle-based chefs: Mark Bodinet from Copperleaf, Bobby Moore from The Barking Frog, Alex Paguaga from Portals and Jason Stoneburner from Bastille. The PRO-AM cook-off will be held on OCT 10.
Cherry and lamb, lamb and cherry. It works!
You may be wondering what happened to the other 2/3 of the lamb? I ground the meat and fat, then formed small patties to make lamb sliders. (To think: 1 leg of lamb was enough for 3 meals)! Since I was ‘playing’ I concocted 5 different combinations of condiments and accessories per slider. We had a taste-off and the top two brioche lamb sliders included: 1. jalapeno jelly, caramelized Anaheim peppers and red onions, garlic aioli and a big slab of white cheddar, and 2. [again with the] cherry chutney, arugula, mayonnaise.