Leg of Lamb with Feta, Mint, and Blood Orange Sauce

Lamb Mint Feta

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
Serves 6

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

Pistachio-Mint Gremolata:
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.

Lamb Kefta and Vegetable Couscous

Lamb Kefta and Vegetable Couscous

Lamb Couscous

This recipe is inspired by the flavors of Morocco. Ground spiced lamb patties are oven-grilled, then added to a rich stew of winter vegetables infused with cinnamon, cumin and coriander. Served on a bed of couscous, this warming dish is heady with exotic flavors and spice – perfect for a winter dinner.

Lamb Kefta and Vegetable Couscous

While this recipe has several steps, it is easy to prepare. The lamb keftas may be assembled in advance and broiled at the end while the stew is simmering. Feel free to improvise with the vegetables for the stew. Pumpkin is a nice substitute for rutabaga, and cauliflower is interchangeable with broccoli romanesco, as pictured above. Be sure to serve the couscous with lots of the sauce from the stew. Serves 4-6.

For the Lamb Keftas:
1 1/2 lbs. (750 g.) ground lamb
1 small yellow onion, minced
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon olive oil plus extra for brushing
2 teaspoons dried cumin
2 teaspoons Spanish paprika
1 teaspoon dried coriander
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon cayenne
1/4 cup chopped coriander/cilantro leaves

Combine lamb and all other ingredients except cilantro leaves in a large bowl. Thoroughly mix to combine well. Stir in cilantro leaves. Form 2″ patties. (Keftas may be prepared to this point up to 6 hours in advance. Place on plate and cover with plastic wrap; refrigerate. Let sit at room temperature 30 minutes before broiling.) Place keftas on lightly oiled broiler pan with tray. Lightly brush lamb with olive oil. Broil in oven until dark golden brown, turning once.

For the vegetables:
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large yellow onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 carrots, cut in 1/4″ slices
1 medium rutabaga, peeled, cut in 1″ pieces
1 small head cauliflower or broccoli romanesco, broken in 1″ florets
1 red pepper, cut in 1/2″ pieces
2 teaspoons dried cumin
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon dried coriander
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 cups chicken stock
1 – 14 oz. (400 g.) can plum tomatoes with juices
1  – 15 oz.(425 g.) can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
4 cups Swiss chard leaves, rinsed, chopped in 2″-3″ pieces

For the couscous:
2 cups chicken stock or water
2 cups couscous
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon salt

Fresh coriander/cilantro leaves for garnish

Heat olive oil in deep sauté pan or stock pot. Add onion and garlic and sauté one minute. Add carrots, rutabaga, cauliflower and red pepper. Cook, stirring, 3 minutes. Add cumin, paprika, coriander and cinnamon and stir to combine with vegetables. Add chicken stock and tomatoes with juices. Simmer until vegetables are tender but still firm, about 15 minutes. Stir in chick peas and Swiss chard. Cover pot and simmer until chard is wilted but still bright green, about 5 minutes.

While stew is simmering, prepare couscous. Bring stock to a boil in a medium saucepan. Add couscous, olive oil and salt. Cover pan and remove from heat. Let stand 5 minutes. Fluff with fork.

To serve, spoon coucous onto large serving platter or individual serving plates, leaving a well in the center. Pour stew into the center, reserving some of the broth. Place Lamb keftas over stew. Pour extra broth over lamb and vegetables. Garnish with fresh cilantro leaves.  Serve with Harissa on the side.

Gigot de Sept Heures – Seven Hour Lamb

Gigot de Sept Heures – Seven Hour Lamb

The precise translation of this recipe is Seven Hour Leg of Lamb, but do not let the name of this dish intimidate you. This slow-cooked leg of lamb can be put in the oven at noon and essentially ignored until dinner.  In the meantime, the meat will slow-cook at a low temperature in its juices and red wine, perfumed and infused with herbs, root vegetables and lots of garlic.  The finished result is comfort food at its best: meat falling of the bone, so tender you can eat it with a spoon, accompanied by a rustic sauce consisting of the braised vegetables, wine and pan juices.

The preparation of Gigot de Sept Heures was originally meant to make use of tough older mutton meat.  Long slow cooking would tenderize it, allowing the connective tissues to break down, creating a rich sauce when cooked.  (This method is similar to the origin of Coq au Vin, which makes use of roosters or coqs.)  Some may argue that this preparation does not do justice to a leg of lamb, which is also delicious simply roasted or grilled with garlic and herbs.  If you feel this way, then try preparing this recipe with a stew or braise cut of lamb such as the shoulder or shank.

Gigot de Sept Heures

1 hour to prepare + 6 hours in the oven

Serves 6-8

1 leg of lamb with bone, 5-6 lbs. (2.5-3 kg.)
8 cloves of garlic, peeled
1/4 cup (60 ml.) olive oil
3 large carrots, peeled, cut in chunks
2 medium yellow onions, peeled, quartered
2 tomatoes, peeled*, seeded, quartered
1 bouquet garni (thyme, bayleaf, parsley)
1 cup (240 ml.) red wine
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Fresh thyme and rosemary sprigs

Prepare the lamb:

Preheat oven to 400 F. (200 C.)

Trim fat from lamb, leaving 1/4″ layer.
Mince 3 garlic cloves and smear over lamb.  Generously salt and pepper lamb.  Place in a Dutch oven or baking pan.  Surround lamb with carrots, onion, tomatoes, remaining garlic cloves.  Drizzle olive oil over lamb and vegetables.  Roast in oven, uncovered, 30 minutes.  Reduce oven temperature to 350 F. (180 C.)  Roast additional 30  minutes.

Remove pan from oven and reduce oven temperature to 250 F. (125 C.)
Transfer lamb to a plate.  Add bouquet garni and red wine to baking pan. Bring to a boil on stove over medium heat, scraping up caramelized bits from bottom of pan.  Return lamb to pan.  Cover pan with lid or aluminum foil.  Return to oven.  Cook 6 hours.

When lamb is finished, remove pan from oven.  Transfer lamb to a cutting board, cover loosely with aluminum foil. Discard bouquet garni from vegetable mixture.  Blend or purée vegetables, wine and collected lamb juice in batches.

Slice lamb and arrange on warm serving platter or dinner plates.  Spoon some of the sauce over.  Garnish with rosemary or thyme sprigs. Serve with remaining sauce in a bowl on the side.