Wednesday, August 8, 2012

The Best Thing You Forgot to Grill This Summer: Lamb, Butterflied and Marinated

Somehow, we've missed the boat here with one of the best possible meats for the grilling season. Everyone does beef steaks and burgers, pulled pork butt and ribs, but rarely do you ever see a really great recipe for a simply fabulous grilled lamb. Here it is.
Meat Eater's Delight: juicy, tender grilled butterflied lamb!
A lot of people think they don't like lamb; it draws up memories of dry, overdone leg of lamb with mint jelly at Easter dinners. I was one of them until I was a teenager, and was served lamb cooked rare in France. What a revelation: rich, juicy and succulent. Certainly NOT what my mother put on the table at home. The key to really wonderful lamb is never to cook it past medium rare...or at most medium. If there is no pink left, then you better keep cooking and make a stew, as well-done lamb leg is abominable. It's the stuff that made so many people think they don't like lamb. Like Chuck.

Last weekend, for Sunday dinner, I found a beautiful, small piece of free-range, organic lamb at the butcher, already boned and butterflied. All it needed was a little marinating in a simple garlicky mixture of fresh garlic, Herbes de Provence, red wine and olive oil. And then a short visit on a hot grill. Perfection.  Good meat doesn't need a lot of ornamentation. Ours turned out to be a spectacular dinner, and my lamb-hating husband scarfed down every bit on his plate.
Be sure your grill is hot enough to cook before your start. 450°F.

Note: To make this Simple Grilled Lamb, you'll need some simple math skills to multiply the ingredients according to the number of people you plan to serve.  The meat should be evenly butterflied to just over 1" thick. Also, please be sure your Herbes de Provence mixture contains lavender; it doesn't have taste anywhere as good without it. When you remove the meat from the grill notice that the grain of the meat will likely go in different directions in the leg, as it's comprised of several different muscles. Be sure to pay attention to where the grain shifts direction as you carve the cooked meat to keep cutting against the grain. This will insure every bite will be meltingly tender.

Simple Grilled Lamb

1 pound of butterflied leg of lamb for every two people you plan to serve
2T of Herbes de Provence per pound of meat
3 minced garlic cloves for each pound of meat
1teas. kosher salt per pound of meat
1/2 cup dry red wine per pound of meat
2T extra virgin olive oil per pound
1 big grind of fresh ground pepper per pound.

Place the meat in a big zip top bag. Combine everything else and pour over. Seal the bag and refrigerate 6  to 8 hours, turning over occasionally bathe the meat in the marinade  evenly.
No fancy ingredients,  just herbs, garlic , wine and oil. Perfection.
Heat a grill to 450°F. Remove the meat from the marinade and discard the bag and marinade. Grill about 3-5 minutes a side depending on how well cooked you like it. Let stand about 7-10 minutes before slicing across the grain like a London broil. Better to err on the rare side as you can always put it back on longer. No way back from overcooked.

Nice with a light dry red wine, pureed cauliflower and steamed greens with oil and garlic.


  1. Mmmm... I love lamb! Chu marinates hers with Chinese spices and it pulls just about all of the strong lamb taste out of it. I'd like to try it this way to taste the difference.

    I know how to butterfly shrimp but what is butterflied lamb? Do you cut in 2" thicknesses and then cut down the center to 1" strips but not all the way through? And can you buy Herbes de Provence pre-made or do you make it yourself and if so, do you know of a good recipe? Sorry for all the questions, I'm a neophyte if it isn't Chinese or Italian.

    1. Steve, any spice shop should have a good Herbes de Provence; even nice supermarkets, like Whole Foods. Williams Sonoma should have it, too. Good on a lot of things. A butterflied leg of lamb is a leg of lamb with the bone removed, and then starting from where the bone once was, and generally, with as few cuts as possible the meat is cut open like a book, yielding a big, flat sheet of meat. A good pounding finishes the job. The thickness of the finished product depends largely on how big the leg is when you start. A small New Zealand leg will yield a far smaller piece. Popular all around the Mediterranean. If you can find a butcher in an italian neighborhood, they'll usually do a good job. So will Whole foods. There are also good videos on doing it yourself. Not hard at all, if you try the first time on a small leg. Just use a good, slightly flexible boning knife. You can leave it up to 2" thick on a larger piece, and that really is optimum, but obviously not possible with a little lamb joint.

  2. Thanks, Judy. Chu is so familiar with our local Whole Foods stores that they invited her to their annual Christmas party. I swear she knows the life stories of every employee in both stores she shops. She's also a regular at Williams Sonoma and also knows everyone at that store, so this should be a piece of cake. In Taiwan, it's normal to shop everyday for the evening meal so the food is fresh.

    I never know about butterflying a leg of lamb, learn something new everyday. Thanks!