Lamb, mint and feta are a match made, if not in heaven, then 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 and Pistachio Gremolata
2 1/2 pounds boneless half leg of lamb, butterflied, excess fat removed
3 tablespoon olive oil, divided
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
Freshly ground black pepper
3 garlic cloves, divided
XX ounces crumbled feta cheese, about 1 1/2 cups
1/4 cup mint leaves, chopped
1 tablespoon fresh thyme 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
1 thyme sprig
2 teaspoons light brown sugar
1 thyme sprig
1/2 cup (packed) mint leaves
1/2 cup (packed) Italian parsley leaves
1/3 cup shelled pistachios
1 small garlic clove
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon finely grated blood orange zest
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
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 the flatten lamb in the thickest parts. The goal is to have as uniform a thickness as possible. Remove the parchment and make shallow incisions with a small knife in the fat. Cut 2 garlic cloves in slivers and insert a sliver in each incision.
Whisk 2 tablespoons oil, the cumin, coriander, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper in a small bowl. Rub the oil mixture all over the lamb. (The lamb may be prepared to this point up to 12 hours in advance. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate. Remove from the refrigerator 30 minutes before proceeding.)
Preheat the oven to 375 F. Combine the feta, mint, thyme, orange zest, 1 minced clove garlic, and the 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper in a medium bowl.
Place the lamb on a work surface, fat-side down. Spread the feta over the lamb, leaving a 1 to 1 1/2-inch border clear on all sides. Starting with a long side, roll the meat up to enclose the filling, tucking in the ends if possible. Tie with kitchen string in 1 1/2 to 2-inch intervals.
Heat one tablespoon olive oil in large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the lamb, seam-side down. Sear until well marked on all sides, turning as needed, 6 to 8 minutes. Transfer the lamb to a baking pan and roast in the oven until an instant read thermometer inserted in the thickest part of the meat reads 140 F, about 40 minutes, basting occasionally. Remove from oven, cover loosely with foil, and let rest 10 minutes.
While the lamb is roasting, deglaze the skillet. Add the red wine to the pan, scraping up any bits from lamb, and reduce by half. Add the blood orange juice, balsamic vinegar, thyme, and brown sugar. Simmer, stirring, until slightly reduced, about XX minutes. Add 1/2 teaspoon salt, or to taste and strain (optional).
Combine the mint, parsley, pistachios, and garlic in the bowl of a food processor and pulse to coarsely chop. Add the oil, zest, salt, and pepper, and pulse to blend without forming a paste. The consistency should be finely chopped with a crumbly consistency.
Discard the strings from lamb. Cut in 3/4-inch thick slices. Serve on warm plates, drizzled with the balsamic blood orange sauce and sprinkled with the gremolata.