As you might have seen, we made lamb on Sunday. Not for any religious benediction, but just because its so damn tasty if made well (in our case it was medium rare). I was sitting over the coals babysitting this succulent piece of lamb leg and I got to thinking. I tend to do the thinking thing a lot more these days than not. Why don’t people eat more lamb? Is it because its not as readily available as beef or pork? Is it because the flavor is a bit more on the gamey side? Or is it because its not as easy to prepare as moms crock pot miracles? There wasn’t an explanation out there that wasn’t going to get me off my high horse. Jumbo must speak.
I really don’t know what compelled me to purchase lamb. Hell, it was probably because I smoke a piece of meat every week and I was running out of beef, pork, and chicken ideas. That sounds like a damn excuse to me. The real reason I wanted lamb was to challenge my palate to make lamb in a way that would appeal to anyone not accustomed to this mysterious meat here in the States. How many times do you have lamb thats not Easter? If you said yes, you’re a liar and you should be ashamed of your lack of integrity. Oh you went across the oceans to discover lamb and all its preparations?. Lovely, this isn’t what we are talking about here. Im talking about the every day household that eats protein on a regular basis. The family that is intimidated by this meat that isn’t found center stage at the butchers shop because grandma told you how much of a bitch it is to prepare. I don’t need to shout facts from the top of the factual mountain to hear me roar, we don’t enough lamb, and thats a fact Jack. We also tend to place meat in different categories. When we think celebration…how about steaks! When we go on an LA diet…how about chicken! Or if you’re me…it doesn’t fucking matter! All meat is equal if you know what you’re up for and without a pretentious plan of action.
Lets talk about the recipe and the wine you should pair with. Lamb is all about herbs and simplicity. For you that desire lamb to taste more like a great cut of beef, I got your back. Lets start with my preparation of the leg I picked up. Lamb needs a lot of attention when it comes to seasoning. Its not that I didn’t want to lamb to taste like lamb, Im really into rich meats myself. The rub does a phenomenal job enhancing the critical flavor profile of this decadent meat.
I took a bowl and put avocado oil, salt, pepper, cumin, and every fucking herb I could find in the house that wasn’t eligible for smoking recreationally.
The ratio with lamb doesn’t really matter, this recipe was more about the meat than the rub unlike most white meat out on the smoker. This rub is more personal than lets say, a Memphis dusting for pork ribs where too much sugar or spice can throw the balance off like a kid learning to ride a bike. Over salting is almost impossible because lambs tough meat wont let the salt seep all the way through, like my cold, and broken heart.
Rub the lamb, wrap it in plastic wrap and let the meat brine for at least a couple of hours. Timing is everything with the execution of this dish.
For charcoal grills, set up a dual zone (coals on one side of the bbq) and only add enough briquets or wood for a 225 degree temp. This will be a “low and slow” type of operation. Smoke the lamb for a one pound per hour ratio and add more briquets or wood every hour. Check the meat with a digital thermometer (don’t be lazy here) and pull the meat off at 130 to rest. The meat will keep cooking an extra 5-10 degrees after which will put your meat into the medium rare category. If you’re a hockey puck eating meat eater, leave the lamb on for an extra 30 minutes to get the lamb a little bit more firm. I like my meat on the more rare side for flavor and texture but also for left overs so you can cook it again in another recipe, its more forgiving this way.
A little note too: any fat or trimmings you cut off the lamb, throw into your fire for a nice smokey offering. I also took some of the collard green stocks into the fire and it created one hell of a dynamic with really nice smoke you get from burning green wood when you go camping.
Now for the wine. I personally paired it with Sculpterra’s 2013 Mourvedre. If I had a million dollars or really tried to put more “pizaz” into the pairing, I would of tried to find and older Syrah from Hermitage or Cote-Rotie. Shiraz from Barossa Valley Australia would be an incredibly rich and earthy wine to compliment the meat, but we make do with what we have. The good news is, the mourvedre paired perfectly. Mourvedre is like Cabernet Francs exotic sister. Used in the Rhone Valley to add a “spine” to the wine where the acid holds the Syrah and Grenache together without being over bearing or intrusive. When mourvedre is done 100% it can be hard to pin point all its great characteristics and for this you have the winemaker and the earth to thank for this great marriage of principle and palate. The mourvedre enhanced the richness of the meat but really made the rub pop. I love when wines and foods pair so well that you can’t tell which one is which when you toss both of them in your hungry palate. The finish really left you wanting another sip, especially towards the end when the bottle really opened up. If I could do anything different next time, it would be to open another bottle to keep the party going. I also made a collard green recipe with shiitake mushrooms, bacon, and vinegar. The acid cut the lambs fat like a spear intended for hunting and the meatiness of the mushrooms and bacon gave this wine the body it was needing to get the job done.
All in all, eat more lamb and drink more wine! I learned that the world doesn’t revolve around one portion of my butchers standard case and your cellar should hold the same values as you do in the kitchen. Diversity on this Sunday night was motivating and I can’t wait to do it again.
P.S. We made a stir fry last night with the remaining lamb made by Jesse and what a treat that was.