Lamb, mint and feta are a match made, if not in heaven, than at least in Greece. One of my favorite preparations of lamb is to simply butterfly a leg, smear it with olive oil, garlic and salt and roast it in the oven or on the grill. In this case, I have taken the simplicity of this recipe one sweeping step further to integrate feta, mint and blood orange. A mixture of feta, mint, garlic and blood orange zest is spread on the inside of the leg, which is then rolled up and seared before roasting in the oven. While the lamb finishes in the oven, a sweet-tart reduction is made with blood orange juice, red wine and balsamic vinegar. The final flourish is a garnish of fresh mint and blood orange zest, brightening the entire dish. The angels are singing.
Mint and Feta Stuffed Leg of Lamb with Balsamic Blood Orange Sauce
Serves 4 to 6
2 pounds boneless half leg of lamb, butterflied, excess fat removed
3 garlic cloves; 1 cut in slivers, 2 minced
3 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon ground cumin
freshly ground black pepper
1 1/2 cups crumbled feta cheese
1/4 mint leaves, chopped
1 tablespoon finely grated blood orange zest
1/2 cup red wine
1 cup freshly squeezed blood orange juice
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
2 teaspoons light brown sugar
Blood Orange and Mint Gremolata (see below)
Arrange lamb, fat-side down, on a work surface. Place a sheet of plastic wrap or parchment over lamb. Pound with a mallet or heavy skillet to flatten lamb in thickest parts. Remove parchment. Make shallow incisions with a small knife in the fat. Insert garlic slivers in incisions. Rub lamb all over with 1-2 tablespoons olive oil. Sprinkle cumin, 1 teaspoon salt and 1 teaspoon pepper all over lamb. (The lamb may be prepared to this point up to 12 hours in advance. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate.)
Preheat oven to 375 F. Combine feta, mint, orange zest and minced garlic in a small bowl. Add 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper. Place lamb on work surface, fat-side down. Spread feta over lamb, leaving a 1″ border all around. Roll up meat to enclose filling, tucking in ends if possible. Tie with kitchen string in 1-2 ” intervals.
Heat one tablespoon olive oil in skillet over medium-high heat. Add lamb, seam-side down. Sear on all sides, about 6 minutes. Transfer to baking pan. Roast in oven until instant read thermometer reads 140 F, basting occasionally, about 40 minutes. Remove from oven. Cover with foil and let rest 10 minutes.
While lamb is roasting, deglaze skillet. Add red wine to pan, scraping up any bits from lamb. Reduce by half. Add blood orange juice, balsamic vinegar and brown sugar. Simmer, stirring, until thickened. Strain. Add 1/2 teaspoon salt, or to taste. Discard strings from lamb. Cut in 1″ slices. Scoop up any extra cheese that may have oozed into the pan, and spoon it over the lamb. Serve drizzled with balsamic blood orange sauce and garnished with Blood Orange and Mint Gremolata.
Blood Orange and Mint Gremolata
1/2 cup mint leaves, chopped
2 teaspoons blood orange zest
1 small garlic clove, minced
Toss the ingredients together in a small bowl. Serve with lamb.