Fired Up Fridays: Rosemary and Feta Stuffed Leg of Lamb
A weekly barbecue blog for the summer.
Scott Schumaker is president of PacificBasin and interim publisher of Hawaii Home + Remodeling. He is also an avid barbecue hobbyist who often tempts co-workers by posting images of his culinary feats on his Instagram, @schuboxphoto. We have convinced him to share his secrets each week this summer with our readers in our Fired Up Friday blog. His grill smoker of choice is a Big Green Egg he purchased from POP Marine and Fishing. He also uses a Weber Summit gas grill, especially for rotisserie cooking, which he got at AirGas Gaspro Kapolei.
Mary had a little lamb but she might be missing the little critter now. Or, if it is following her to school, it is walking with a decided limp.
Like the papio is to the ulua, lamb is simply a young sheep. Sheep older than 1 year are called mutton or hogget, and those yet to celebrate their baby luau are called lamb. I love lamb and prepare it many ways. The chops and racks can be a bit expensive, so when going for maximum value, I’m a leg guy.
Trimmed of all its fat, lamb is a relatively healthy red meat, high in vitamins like B12 and minerals like iron. I try to buy grass fed when I can, just like I do when buying beef.
Stuffing a boneless leg of lamb is easy. I usually do the prep the day before, to allow the flavors to blend. The prep takes about 20 minutes. The low-and-slow smoking method combined with a reverse sear can take a total of two to three hours, depending on the size of the leg and the smoking temperature. For most of that time, you’re chilling, drinking wine and drooling while smelling the cooking lamb.
Almost everyone that has tried this roast loves it, even those who claim they do not like lamb. Everyone but Mary, that is.
Here is how I do it, in 10 easy steps:
Step 1 – Remove all the packaging, including the elastic netting, from the leg of lamb. To make cleanup a breeze, I always place mine over my sink on a wire rack I bought at ChefZone. This keeps all the trimmed fat, olive oil, stuffing and spice rub from flying all over my kitchen counter. It also keeps the wife happy.
Step 2 – Remove all the outer fat and the tough silver skin below the fat. This allows the rub – and the glorious smoke – to better penetrate the meat and makes for more tender, leaner eating. Turn the leg over and butterfly it by cutting the muscle on either side of where the bone was removed, slicing parallel to the wire rack. The key is to get as uniform thickness as possible across the entire muscle.
Step 3 – Rub some olive oil and season the lamb on the side facing up. This will eventually become the inside of the rolled lamb. For lamb, my two favorite rubs are from Penzeys – Lamb (imagine that) and Greek. The olive oil will help the rub to adhere and better penetrate the meat. It’s now time to stuff the lamb. Here, I’m using fresh rosemary from our lanai and feta cheese, but I have also used garlic and feta as well as spinach, feta and toasted pine nuts. Use your imagination and try a variety of stuffing until you find one you like. This is barbecue after all, not science.
Step 4 – Roll the lamb, tucking the stuffing in as you go, and secure with butcher twine.
Step 5 – Rub olive oil and more seasoning on the outside of the roast, covering all sides. Place the seasoned, stuffed, rolled lamb into the refrigerator overnight to let the flavors mingle. If grilling that day, even a few hours in the fridge will help. Again, it’s barbecue, not science. It’s ok to break the rules.
Step 1 – Light your grill or smoker and set it up to cook using the Indirect Method/Reverse Sear technique. You want the lamb to bask in the smoke for as long as possible. So, try to maintain a temperature range of 215-230 degrees … low and slow. I use a Weber iGrill2 to help measure the cooking temperature of my smoker (small probe on the left) and the internal temperature of the roast (big probe skewering the lamb). Add a couple of chunks of wood. I prefer pecan or cherry for lamb, but kiawe or hickory will do just fine. This is a great time to add a little more rub to the lamb. Say your goodbyes and close the smoker lid.
Step 2 – Now we wait and enjoy some wine for roughly a couple of hours. A couple of bottles of red should do the trick, more if you didn’t use the wire rack and the wife is upset. When the lamb reaches an internal temperature of about 118-120 degrees, pull it off the smoker. Remove the heat barrier you used – in my case the plate setter on the Big Green Egg – and open all the vents to let as much air in as possible. You want to get the coals lava hot as quickly as possible.
Step 3 – Once the coals are roaring, sear your lamb to lock in all the wonderful juices and flavor until the lamb’s internal temperature reaches 125F. Stand back to both admire the wonderful crust you are creating as well as to save your eyebrows from the searing flames.
Step 4 – Remove the lamb from your inferno and let it rest for 20 minutes or so. This allows the fibers of the meat to relax and the juices to settle in. Also, the internal temperature should ease up to about 130 degrees, a perfect rare.
Step 5 – Ask the paparazzi to stand back as you slice the lamb. Do your best to remain humble as the family gives you a standing ovation. Everyone but Mary, that is.