Grilling Good Eats
by Mike Thayer
If you've never had lamb before, it's a MUST try! Lamb is the go-to meat in much of the Mediterranean. It's used there like beef is here in the states to make sandwiches, casseroles, entrees and sides. It's enjoyed as roasts, chops and you've probably heard of a 'Rack of Lamb' which is delicious! The meat presents a whole different flavor profile, it's outstanding! So if you're looking for something a little different to try, lamb is the ticket, no mint jelly required!
Meat Temp for Lamb: To get a medium rare, grill lamb until the meat thermometer hits the 135 degree mark. Remember to let the meat rest after pulling it from the grill!
Mike's Lamb Chops
A lamb chop from the grill is OH SO TASTY! If you've never grilled lamb before this is the cut to grill that first time. They are easy to do and do well and by serving lamb to dinner guests you'll look like a real grill pro.
- 6-8 lamb chops
- ½ cup white wine (use something you like to drink)
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 1 Tablespoon Cookies Flavor Enhancer or your favorite rub
- 1 Tablespoon minced onion
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- ¼ teaspoon dried Rosemary
Whisk together the wine, olive oil, rub, garlic powder, minced onion and Rosemary. After placing the chops in a ziplock bag, pour the wine mixture over the chops and let those flavors marry, refrigerating for at least four hours. Grill over direct heat, lid off, to get that good sear and great looking grill marks, 3-5 minutes depending on the thickness of the chops. After you’ve got that great presentation side look, flip the chops over to the low heat side of the grill and cover. Grill for about another 15 minutes or until the meat thermometer hit’s the 135 degree mark (medium rare). In the grill set-up, cherry wood pellets add another layer of flavor. TIP: Trim some of the fat off the chops before marinating or rubbing and save it to create pan drippings. When you’re grilling, put those fat trimmings in a cast iron skillet over low heat and let them render to create the base for a sauce or gravy.
A quick pan sauce for chops…. Combine lamb fat drippings with a little flour, some black berries or blueberries - whatever kind of berry you might have on hand for that matter - and some balsamic vinegar. Salt and pepper to taste and you’ve made an excellent compliment to the chops!
This is my favorite lamb dish! When I was in the military and stationed in Turkey, Iskender was my go-to order when I dined out. It's another dose of YUM made with thinly sliced grilled lamb served in a tomato based sauce over a bed of grilled pita bread and topped with yogurt.
- Two pounds of lamb tenderloin, cut into long thin strips
- One large onion, coarsely grated
- The juice from one lemon
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 1 cup plain yogurt
- 2 garlic cloves, crushed
- One Tablespoon sweet paprika
- One six ounce can tomato paste
- 1/2 cup water
- 1/2 stick of butter
- salt and pepper to taste
- 4 pita rounds, grilled, then chopped into bite sized squares
Combine the olive oil, lemon juice and onion in a small mixing bowl, set aside. Place the lamb pieces into a large ziplock bag, pour in the marinade and refrigerate for at least two hours. Combine the yogurt, half the crushed garlic, salt and pepper in a small bowl, cover and refrigerate. When the grill is ready to receive, thread the marinaded lamb onto metal or water-soaked wood or bamboo skewers. Cook the lamb over direct heat, turning frequently until you get a nice golden brown crispy edge to the meat. As that meat is cooking, place a cast iron or grill safe pan over the indirect heat side of the grill, melt the butter, add the remaining garlic and stir for about a minute. Add the paprika, tomato paste and water, stirring to incorporate. Simmer for about 10 minutes. Pull the meat and sauce from the grill when done and throw on the pita bread over direct heat. You just want grill marks on the bread, about a minute per side. Remove from the grill and slice into bite sized squares. To Serve: Plate the grilled pita, top with a layer of the lamb, then the sauce, then a couple dollops of yogurt.
You'll LOVE this dish! Serving options: Grilled peppers, roasted tomato wedges, and/or tabouli salad add a nice finishing touch to the dish.
If you remember from the beef chapter, I wrote that beef stew meat is not recommended for making kabobs, it's too tough of a cut of meat and needs a very low and slow preparation to be good. Cooking beef stew meat over direct heat on the grill, well it just won't get tender by the time it's cooked through, leaving you with a chewy piece of meat. That's not the case with lamb stew meat. Lamb stew meat cut from the arm shoulder in this case is fine for making kabobs, especially with a great marinade to assist in the tenderizing process.
- Two pounds of lamb stew meat
- One green bell pepper, rough chop (bite size pieces)
- One red or yellow bell pepper, rough chop
- One medium onion, rough chop
- About two pounds of cherry tomatoes
- 1/4 cup yellow mustard
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 1/4 cup white wine
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon dried rosemary
- 1/2 teaspoon cardamom
In a medium bowl, whisk together the mustard, olive oil, wine, salt, pepper, rosemary and cardamom, set aside. Place the lamb stew meat in a large Ziplock bag, pour in the marinade and refrigerate overnight. The veggies don’t need to marinade that long, you can actually get away with dressing them just before you start the charcoal. If you’re going to use wood skewers, remember to soak them in water for about 30 minutes prior to loading them up with the meat and veggies. KABOB TIP #1: Always put your meat and veggies for kabobs on separate skewers. A meat and veggie skewer combo looks great in the meat counter display case at the grocery store, but the fact is the veggies on the skewer cook through much faster than the meat. You want tender crisp veggies with a hint of charcoal flavor, not dried out, charred veggies to go with that lamb. KABOB TIP #2: Don’t overload the meat on the skewers, leave some space between the cubes. Meat that is packed too tightly won’t cook evenly, won’t look as nice when served and most importantly, won’t taste as good. Place your meat kabobs over hot coals to get a good sear, lid off. Turn a quarter turn after about two minutes, repeat through four rotations giving you a medium rare kabob. Place your veggie kabobs on the grill after the meat kabobs are cooked halfway through. Serve together with rice pilaf and warm pita bread. It's another dose of YUM!
Grill Roasted Rack of Lamb
A rack of lamb is basically what chops look like all lined up before they're cut into chops. A rack of lamb is also "frenched" which means the rib bones are left intact, but are scraped and cleaned for a more attractive presentation. This is a FANTASTIC meal when done right and here's a recipe that does just that! A nice add to the grill setup: Along with charcoal, throw in a couple big handfuls of cherry wood pellets.
- A rack of lamb (usually has 8 bones exposed)
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- Cookies Flavor Enhancer or your favorite rub (plain ol' salt and pepper works great too!)
- 2 teaspoons dried rosemary
- 1/2 teaspoon cardamom
In a small bowl, mix together the olive oil, rub, rosemary and cardamom. Dress the rack of lamb with the mix. When the grill is ready to receive, place the lamb on the indirect heat side of the grill. This preparation requires a reverse sear. We want this cut of meat to cook to a nice medium rare throughout and starting out on the indirect heat side of the grill with the lid down will get us there, with the rack absorbing all that delicious smoky flavor. Roast for about 30 minutes, then transfer over to the direct heat side of the grill to get a nice caramelized edge to the meat, about two minutes per side or until the thermometer hits 135 degrees. Let the lamb rest for at least five minutes before cutting into 2-bone sections for serving.... YES! DOUBLE CHOPS!
Leg of Lamb
When you purchase your leg of lamb at the store, do not be tempted to buy a 'boneless' version. Don't be tempted for two reasons: 1. A boneless leg of lamb - which means the bone has been removed - means it's no longer a LEG OF LAMB. And 2., the more important reason, no bone means less flavor! If you’ve got a grill big enough to accommodate a leg of lamb, this will be some of the best lamb you have ever eaten. Go for about a 5 - 6 pound leg. The key here is low and slow cooking using the “Snake Method” style of arranging your coals. The night before grilling, rub the roast down with Cookies Flavor Enhancer or your favorite rub. If you don’t have a favorite rub, here’s a quick and easy rub to try.
Dry Rub Ingredients
- One tablespoon Kosher salt
- Two tablespoons of granulated garlic
- One tablespoon onion powder
- One tablespoon dried rosemary
- One tablespoon paprika
- One teaspoon dried mustard
- One teaspoon black pepper
- After rubbing down your leg (I know what you're thinking, not actually your leg stupid, the lamb leg!) put it in a big zip lock bag or plastic container and refrigerate.
Your grill set-up is going to use the ‘Snake Method.‘ After you’ve lit your charcoal chimney with about 15 starter briquettes in it, pull your leg out of the refrigerator (ok, not YOURS, the lamb!), inspect, dab off any excess moisture (if any) with a paper towel, let that leg air out, reapply some rub if needed. Once your charcoal in the chimney is ready, pour those hot coals at one end of the snake, making it the head of the snake. This is good for about a 225 - 250 degree temperature and up to six hours of cook time (depending on the size/length of the snake) as the snake burns from head to tail. Don’t forget to add a few chunks of fruit wood, chips or pellets, as they really do add to this preparation! To keep the leg moist, nestle one of those disposable foil pans into the open space at the bottom center of the grill. Add two cups of hot water to the pan. The pan serves two purposes, not only keeping the leg moist, but also catching the roast drippings during the cooking process for an Au jus. Get your grilling grate in position and place your leg, fat side up, in the center of the grate and put the lid on. That leg fat (flavor) is going to slowly sizzle down the sides of the meat adding to the texture and flavor of that meat, before it drips into the pan of deliciousness below. You want that, if you did fat side down, you just won’t get as good of a final product. Check your leg - do NOT turn - after about two hours. When your leg hits that magic 135 degree internal temperature mark (medium rare), about 3 to 4 hours depending on the size of the leg, it’s ready to pull and rest. Slice thin and ladle some of that Au jus over the top. Enjoy!