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Harbinger of Spring
Butterflied Leg of Lamb à la Provençale
As summer is winding down and the grilling season for many of us is coming to an end, I’d like to propose an easy and delicious alternative to the usual burgers, brats, dogs and ribs.
Unless you’re experienced at butterflying, ask your butcher to do this for you. That’s the only tricky part. If you do try it yourself, make sure that the meat is the same thickness across the surface so it will cook evenly.
This is one of the most delicious and spectacular dishes you can cook on your grill. Your guests will be totally wowed by how fabulous it tastes, and how quickly it cooks. I made it for my friends Sunday afternoon. It disappeared quickly along with the Niçoise Potato Salad below and a delicious leafy greens salad contributed by one of my guests. We washed it down with several bottles of delicious Gigondas – perhaps the perfect accompaniment to a Provençal lamb dish.
Butterflied Leg of Lamb à la Provençale
makes 8 generous servings
1 Leg of Lamb, trimmed and boned (approximately 5 pounds trimmed weight)
(Be sure to ask your butcher to remove the fell.)
1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
1 tablespoon fresh rosemary leaves
1 tablespoon fresh marjoram leaves
3 cloves garlic
4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 lemon, juice and zest
1. Coarsely chop leaves and garlic. Add lemon zest and mix with oil and juice of the lemon. Rub lamb well, all over. Wrap in plastic, and marinate at least 1 hour. (You can let it sit up to three hours in the refrigerator.)
2. Grill over rosy red coals, or an electric range top grill, for 45 minutes (to 130 degrees F. internal). Or, you may roast it in the oven–375 degrees F. for 20 to 25 minutes, then slide under the broiler 2 minutes (to 125 degrees F. internal) to achieve that crusty grilled look.
3. Let sit at least 10 minutes before carving so you don’t lose any of the precious juices.
Keep your Provençal theme going by serving this unique Potato Salad to accompany the lamb. You can leave the anchovies out of the dressing if you must, but then be sure to add 1/4 teaspoon of fine sea salt. You can make all the components ahead of time, but don’t assemble the salad until you are ready to serve.
Niçoise Potato Salad with Tiny Green Beans
(atop a bed of fresh Spinach)
2 anchovy fillets, well drained and very finely chopped
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 clove garlic, very finely chopped
3 tablespoons white wine vinegar
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
In a bowl, whisk together the anchovies, mustard, garlic and vinegar. Add the oil, one tablespoon at a time, whisking constantly. Set the dressing aside so the flavors can mellow.
8 medium-sized red potatoes (2 pounds) scrubbed, with skins intact
2 tablespoons dry French vermouth
1/4 red onion, thinly sliced
3 tablespoons chopped fresh chervil or flat-leaf parsley
1 cup tiny ripe Niçoise olives (or choose oil-cured ripe olives from Nyons or Morocco)
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 pound haricots vert (tiny French green beans) – You can save time by using the frozen organic ones from Whole Foods.
2 pounds fresh, young spinach, washed several times to remove any sand, and well dried
1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add the potatoes and cook until they are tender when pierced with a fork.
2. Trim the green beans and blanch in a large pot of salted boiling water for about 4 minutes. Remove from the heat immediately and refresh in an ice water bath to stop the cooking. Toss with about 2 tablespoons of the vinaigrette
3. While the potatoes are still hot, but cool enough to handle, slice them thickly and layer them in a wide, shallow bowl. Sprinkle each layer with some of the vermouth, red onion and parsley. Pour the vinaigrette and olives on top and, with your hands, gently toss the potatoes with the olives and dressing. Wipe the sides of the dish; add salt and pepper, to taste.
4. Cover with plastic wrap and let the potatoes sit at room temperature for at least 1 hour before serving.
5. To serve, arrange atop the spinach and garnish with more olives and very thinly sliced red onions.
Teacher’s Tip: Any waxy potato, such as Yukon Gold or French Fingerlings, will work well in this salad.