Thursday, February 28, 2013

Yogurt marinated leg of lamb with cucumber tomato salad

It's been years since the movie came out, but every time I think of lamb I think of this scene from My Big Fat Greek Wedding, which is about the shenanigans that happen when the families of an ethnic girl and a white boy meet for the first time:

So when the boy and I decided to grill up some lamb for his parents while they were in town visiting from Wisconsin, the movie was especially prominent in my head, as it would be my first time meeting them. (!)

I'm happy to report that the lamb, in addition to the greek salad (see below) and poached pear with mascarpone tart (see this post), were a smashing success! It was wonderful meeting his parents, and I (hopefully we) had a great time talking and drinking and laughing and eating throughout the evening. And the fact that every aspect of dinner was prepared beforehand allowed us to fully enjoy the evening without having to worry about cooking and timing of the meal. Other than this lamb, my favorite part of the night had to be watching the boy interact with his parents, as I could just see the strength and love in their relationships. It wasn't a surprise, as I'd heard about his parents before and had a sense of what great people they were. But watching it with my own eyes was definitely a pleasure.

So whether you have a small or big get together in the future, I can't recommend this dish enough. It was my first time preparing lamb and was easily one of the best lamb dishes I've ever had in my life.

When cooking the center to medium rare the ends cooked to medium/medium well,
 perfect for mixed company that enjoys their meats cooked to different doneness

Grilled yogurt marinated leg of lamb, from bon appetit
I got my lamb from Fresh Farms in Skokie and the quality of the meat was beyond superb for a very reasonable price. Make sure you ask for a 4-5 lb cut of meat, since the entire leg of lamb is close to 10 pounds. Since I have no idea on how to cut a leg of lamb, I simply asked the butcher to butterfly the leg for me, so I literally had to do no prep work in cutting the lamb!


2 cups whole-milk yogurt, divided
1 teaspoon plus 3 1/2 tablespoons Tabil Spice Blend (see below for recipe)
1 large garlic clove, minced plus 4 large garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon kosher salt plus more for seasoning
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper plus more for seasoning
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 4-5 pound butterflied leg of lamb, opened like a book
4 lemons, halved, optional

Tabil spice blend (makes 6 TBSP)
3 tablespoons coriander seeds
1 1/2 tablespoons cumin seeds (I used about half this much since I'm not a huge cumin fan)
1 tablespoon caraway seeds
1/2 tablespoon crushed red pepper flakes
Finely grind coriander seeds, cumin seeds, caraway seeds, and crushed red pepper flakes in a spice mill. Can be made 1 month ahead. Store airtight at room temperature.

  1. To prepare dipping sauce: mix 1 cup yogurt, 1 teaspoon Tabil Spice Blend, and 1 minced garlic clove in a small bowl. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Cover and chill. 
  2. To prepare lamb: whisk remaining 1 cup yogurt, remaining 3 1/2 tablespoons Tabil Spice Blend, 4 minced garlic cloves, 1 teaspoon salt, 1 teaspoon pepper, oil, and lemon juice in a large bowl. Add lamb; turn to coat. Cover and chill overnight, turning occasionally. 
  3. Prepare grill to medium-high heat. Season lamb with salt and pepper. Grill until meat is cooked to desired doneness, 10-15 minutes per side for medium-rare. (We cooked it ~15 minutes on one side and 10 on the other and it was perfect)
  4. Let rest 10 minutes. Meanwhile, grill lemon halves (if using), cut side down, until charred, about 5 minutes. Thinly slice lamb against the grain and arrange on a platter; garnish with lemons. Serve with reserved yogurt sauce.  
The lamb paired wondefully with roasted vegetables and this cucumber, tomato, and feta cheese salad inspired by my aunt. My cousin has written the full recipe in her blog, and I'm stealing her photo for my purposes since I didn't take one of the salad.

Thanks Megan!

Cucumber, tomato, and feta cheese salad, from my aunt Nahreen
I didn't really measure anything, I just kept adding ingredients to taste. But for you I'm providing a modified version of the recipe my cousin posted on her site (divided by 4, as my aunt cooks for a ton of big eaters).

1 1/2 cucumbers, peeled, cut in half lengthwise, and sliced (I like to use the long skinny hothouse [seedless] cucumbers for this)
1 - 2 roma tomatoes, sliced (or 2 handfulls of cherry tomatoes, quartered)
1/4 medium red onion, sliced thinly (or 1 medium shallot, sliced)
1/3 lb French feta cheese, crumbled (You can use any kind of feta, but I think French is the creamiest and mildest feta out there. Try it! You'll never go back to the regular kind.)
1/2 TBSP dried oregano, or more to taste
olive oil
splash of lemon juice and/or red wine vinegar, optional (my aunt doesn't add this to her salad, but I like the slight hint of vinegar in my salad)
kalamata olives, optional

  1. In medium bowl mix together cucumbers, tomatoes, onions, and feta cheese.
  2. Add the olive oil, oregano, s/p, and lemon/red wine vinegar, if using.
  3. Top with kalamata olives if you like.


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