I have been itching to put a butterflied leg of lamb on the grill. Finally did it this past weekend. Normally, I would butterfly the leg myself but when I got to the butcher, a large leg had already been boned and butterflied so laziness took hold and I purchased it. However, it was huge – even boned, it weighed almost 6¾ pounds – and very expensive. But when I began to trim the excess fat and ready it for the grill and realized that there were only 4 of us to feed, I decided that I could cut and paste and we could have the lamb experience in three different ways from this one fat leg.
I cut off the piece I would herb and garlic-up for the immediate grilling experience; then, I cut off a beautiful almost fat-free piece that weighed about a pound that we could pop on the grill with some peppers for a lunch later in the month – cooked rare and then thinly sliced and packed into a pita bread with an herby vinaigrette and some chopped tomatoes. I cut the remainder into cubes for lamb kabobs – think I got about 2 pounds which will provide kabobs for, at the least, 8 people. So, in the end, the freezer got a new supply and my expensive butterflied leg of lamb wasn’t so expensive after all.
Grilled Butterflied Leg of Lamb
Feeds about 6
One butterflied leg of lamb – about 3½ pounds (see Note)
As many peeled cloves of garlic as you like – I use a lot
A few sprigs fresh rosemary
A few sprigs fresh mint
A couple of sprigs fresh thyme
Coarse salt and pepper
About 3 tablespoons celery seed
About 2 tablespoons coarse ground black pepper
Prepare the lamb at least an hour before grilling. This allows the herb and garlic flavors to season the meat and lets the meat come to room temperature so that it doesn’t take too long for the rolled leg to cook in the center.
Make little cuts into the meat at random spots on both the interior and exterior. Poke a garlic clove into each slot. Lay a couple of sprigs of rosemary, mint, and thyme in the center of the cut side (interior) of the meat. Season very lightly with salt and pepper.
Roll the meat up and around the herbs. Using kitchen twine, tie the meat together by one of two ways. The easiest, cut a number of pieces of twine long enough to go around the rolled meat and then, one by one, firmly tie them around the meat at about 1-inch intervals. The other method is to cut a long piece of twine and tie it around about an inch or so from one end of the rolled meat. Then, holding it around your finger about 1-inch from the first wrap, pull the long strand around the rolled meat and then up and under the piece you’re holding around your finger. Pull it tightly so that it holds the meat and makes a wrap about 1-inch from the first tie. Continue weaving until either you have tied the whole roll or you have used all of the twine but the roll is not completely tied. For the latter, you will have to cut another piece of twine and continue tying until the roll is completely tied.
When the meat is completely tied, push some herb sprigs under the twine. Push in any garlic cloves that may have popped out while you manipulated the meat. Coat the exterior with celery seed and coarse ground black pepper. Set aside for at least an hour.
Place the grill rack about 4-inches from the heat source. Prepare a hot grill. I use only hard wood charcoal, but use whatever type you are comfortable with. The fire should be very hot.
Place the meat over the hot coals and cover. Grill for about 10 minutes or until nicely charred. Turn and grill the other side for about 10 minutes or until nicely charred. Transfer the meat off of the direct heat but not to the far side of the grill. It should still be getting a good amount of heat. Cover and cook for about 25 minutes or until an instant-read thermometer reads 135ºF (this should give you a pink center). Remove the meat from the grill and allow to rest for about 5 minutes before carving.
When ready to carve, using kitchen shears, cut off and discard the twine. Slice the meat, crosswise, into pieces about ¼-inch thick.
I served ours with a light bulghur salad and zucchini sautéed with cherry tomatoes and red onion.
NOTE: To butterfly a leg of lamb you will need a sharp boning knife (or, if you don’t have one, use a small, very sharp paring knife) and patience. I have the former but not an excess of the latter!
Place the leg, fat, smooth side down on a counter. Using your fingertips, locate the position of the larger bone and then, using the boning knife, work the meat away from both sides of the bone, leaving as little meat on the bone as possible. Work slowly and carefully so that you don’t loose a lot of meat. When the meat has been loosened from both sides of the bones begin scraping the meat away from the underside of the bone. When the larger bone is completely free of meat, locate the point at which the smaller bone begins and, using the same technique, cut the meat away from the smaller bone.
When finished, you should have a large piece of meat that lays flat on the counter. Trim off excess fat but, if grilling, leave enough of a coating of fat to lubricate the meat as it cooks.