Mediterranean Stuffed Leg of Lamb in a Stout Marinade

Cooking with Beer by | Mar 2016 | Issue #110
Photo by Sean Z. Paxton

Celebrate the beginning of spring with flavorful dishes that can be served individually or together as a complete meal.

Mediterranean Stuffed Leg of Lamb
Whether you’re hosting an Easter feast, need a dish for a Sunday supper roast or just aspire to make the best lamb sandwich you’ve ever had, this butterflied leg of lamb recipe enhances the flavors of the rich meat while overlaying each bite with a delectable taste of the Mediterranean.

Serves: 6–10 guests

Mediterranean-Style Marinade Ingredients
5 garlic cloves, roasted
1 shallot, peeled
1 rosemary sprig, leaves removed from stem
1 anchovy fillet (optional)
2 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp thyme, dried
1 tsp marjoram, dried
1 tsp coriander seeds, toasted
1 tsp fennel seeds, toasted
1 tsp black peppercorns, whole
1 tbsp tomato paste (or 2 sun dried tomatoes)
12 oz Stout, such as Firestone Walker’s Velvet Merlin

First, toast the seeds by adding them to a hot pan and shaking or rolling until they become fragrant, about 2–3 minutes. Then, in the pitcher of a blender, add the roasted garlic, shallot, rosemary, anchovy, salt, thyme, marjoram, toasted coriander and fennel seeds, black peppercorns and tomato paste. Blend at medium speed to grind the ingredients into a pesto. Slowly add one third of the Stout. Once the mixture starts to become more of a paste than a pesto, add the remaining beer. Turn off the blender and set the Mediterranean-Style Marinade aside.

Leg of Lamb Ingredients
4–5 lb leg of lamb, deboned and butterflied
2 red bell peppers, roasted, peeled and seeded
1 fennel bulb, roasted
5 garlic cloves, roasted
1 head escarole, washed and dried
salt and freshly cracked black peppercorns

Butterflying Directions
When you pick up your leg of lamb, you can ask your butcher to de-bone and butterfly it for you. This is not a difficult operation to do at home though, if you have a sharp boning knife and a little patience. The idea behind butterflying a piece of meat is to create a uniform thickness, allowing it to cook more evenly, as the muscle groups vary in size. Lamb fat also has a more pronounced flavor, especially if the sheep is grass-fed. By removing this fat, the resulting roast will be less gamey. Butterflying allows you to remove excess fat and any other sinewy tissue. Another benefit to butterflying meat is the increased surface area it produces. This enables a marinade to access more muscle tissue, which makes the meat more tender, and infuses it with more flavor.

• Take the deboned leg of lamb and unwrap it, skin side down. Find the thinnest section of the meat. That will be the thickness of the whole leg.

• Next, find the thickest muscle and plan your cut. The idea is to keep the sharp boning knife parallel to the cutting board. The cut should only go 7/8 through the muscle, keeping the end of the muscle attached. The resulting flap of meat will add surface area and increase the size of the roast.

• The cutting direction should also be considered, as the goal of butterflying the meat is to create surface area that can be re-rolled together (making room for stuffing). While it’s not completely possible, aim to create a large rectangle.

• Direct the cut to an open area, planning the flap of meat to fill the open space. Repeat with each individual muscle group. If you accidently cut too deep and detach the meat, it can be replaced and rolled back into place later.

• Keeping the skin side intact is also key, as this provides structure to help keep the filling inside the rolled meat.

• Repeat with each muscle group until the lamb forms a rough rectangle at an even thickness and can be rolled together to form a pinwheel or log-style roast.

Place the butterflied leg of lamb into a large container and pour the Mediterranean-Style Marinade over it, reserving 2 tablespoons for sauce. Massage the marinade into all the folds of the meat. Seal the container and marinate for at least 2 hours, preferably overnight. The stuffing can either be prepared now (and refrigerated) or right before rolling the meat and tying it together.

Stuffing Directions
Roast the bell peppers over an open flame (stove burner or grill), turning once the heat-exposed surface has just tuned black. This will take about 2–3 minutes a side. Then place the hot roasted peppers into a plastic bag and seal it, letting the peppers steam, which will help the charred skin come off easier. To roast the fennel, place the sliced bulb in a small pan with 1/4 cup of olive oil, season with a teaspoon of salt, cover and braise in a 300°F oven for 40 minutes or until tender. Roast the garlic in the oven at the same time.

Remove the lamb from the marinade and place onto a clean cutting board, creating a large rectangle. Rub the roasted garlic into the muscle fibers evenly. Next, arrange the bell peppers over the meat, creating a pattern to cover most of its surface. Layer the fennel pieces (saving the liquid) over the peppers, and top with the escarole leaves.

Tightly roll the meat back together, creating a pinwheel-shaped log. Tie the meat with kitchen twine, along the roll side, so that it can’t unwrap. This will require 3–5 ties altogether. Place the meat skin side up into a roasting pan fitted with a rack. Season the roast with salt and pepper and let it rest for an hour before cooking.

Roasting Directions
Preheat the oven to 350°F, convection roast, if you have this setting. If you have a probe-style meat thermometer, insert it into the center of the roast. Place the lamb roast into the oven and cook until the center reaches your desired doneness.

Rare: 115–120°F
Medium-Rare: 120–125°F
Medium: 130–135°F
Medium-Well: 140–145°F
Well-Done: 150–155°F

A 4–5 pound leg of lamb will take 1 hour 45 minutes with an internal temperature of 135°F. After it comes out of the oven, the meat will continue to cook, increasing its internal temperature by 5 degrees while it rests.

Let the roast rest, tented with aluminum foil, for at least 10–20 minutes before carving. To carve, cut off the twine and slice the meat into 3/4-inch to 1-inch thick rings. Arrange the slices on a serving platter. Garnish with Italian leaf parsley and the yogurt sauce.

Yogurt Sauce
1/2 cup whole milk yogurt, plain (cow or sheep’s milk)
2 tbsp Mediterranean-Style Marinade

In a small bowl or container, add the yogurt and the reserved 2 tablespoons of the Mediterranean-Style Marinade. Stir to combine. Serve with the roasted lamb or use as a sandwich spread.

Israeli Cous Cous Salad with Spring Vegetables and IPA Dressing

Serves: 8 guests

Cous Cous Salad Ingredients
3 cup cous cous, Israeli style (larger-sized pellets)
3 3/4 cup cold water
1 tbsp kosher salt
1 tsp thyme, dried
1 tsp marjoram, dried
1 tsp coriander seeds, toasted
1 tsp fennel seeds, toasted
1 bay leaf, preferably fresh

1 fennel bulb, roasted
1 1/2 cup English peas, fresh and shelled, blanched
2 cup pea shoots or tendrils
1 cup Italian leaf parsley, stems removed and chopped
4 oz pine nuts, toasted
salt and freshly cracked pepper to taste
fennel pollen (optional)

In a medium pot with a lid, add the Israeli cous cous and place over medium heat. Toast the cous cous for 7–8 minutes, stirring frequently, until it’s a golden color. Add the water, increasing the heat to high. Add the salt, thyme, marjoram, toasted coriander and fennel seeds and bay leaf. Cook 10 minutes until all the water has been absorbed. Transfer the cous cous to a sheet tray, spreading it out, and allowing it to cool for 40 minutes.

Prepare the roasted fennel as in the Mediterranean Stuffed Leg of Lamb recipe. Let cool. Blanch the peas in boiling water for 1–2 minutes, then shock in a cold water bath. Place the fennel and peas in a large bowl and add the pea shoots, parsley and pine nuts (toasted to a golden yellow in a 325°F oven for about 10 minutes, then cooled). Add cous cous and toss with the IPA Dressing. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Pour the salad onto a serving platter and garnish with parsley leaves and a sprinkle of fennel pollen.

IPA Dressing Ingredients
1/2 cup IPA, more on the citrusy side, like Russian River’s Blind Pig, Sierra Nevada’s Pale Ale or 3 Floyds’ Zombie Dust
1/4 cup fennel braising liquid
1 tsp kosher salt
1/2 citrus (orange or lemon), juice and zest

In a small bowl, add the IPA, reserved braising liquid from the fennel, salt, citrus juice and zest and mix together. Set aside until ready to serve.