This approach to cooking lamb on the Weber Smokey Mountain Cooker has been adapted from the article "Rethinking Roasted Leg of Lamb" in the March/April 2006 issue of Cook's Illustrated magazine.
The recipe calls for a boneless leg of domestic lamb with the sirloin muscle removed. When I talked to my lamb purveyor, he referred to this a "short leg of lamb". Since terminology may differ from one butcher to the next, your best bet is to ask for a "whole, boneless leg of lamb with the sirloin muscle removed". Do not buy a butterflied leg of lamb for this recipe.
The use of domestic lamb, combined with extensive trimming of fat, results in a finished product with very mild flavor that is not at all gamy.
Be prepared to spend 60 minutes or more breaking down the boneless leg of lamb into three separate pieces, trimming all areas of surface fat, internal fat, silver skin and gristle, scoring the meat, and prepping the scrap meat for use in the garlic jus. I would recommend that you prep the meat the night before, then brine, tie, and cook the meat the next day.
Here's a description and photos of how I cooked this recipe on March 18, 2006.
As always...click on any of the pictures to view a larger image.
Select And Trim The Lamb
Choose a 5-7 pound boneless leg of domestic lamb with the sirloin muscle removed.
Photos 1-2 show a 5 pound, 4-3/4 ounce leg of California lamb from CK Lamb in Healdsburg, CA. Most boneless legs of lamb will be netted like this one was.
Remove the netting and unroll the meat. It should look similar to Photo 3.
Here are the steps for trimming the meat. Take your time and work carefully, using a very sharp boning knife.
Photo 4 shows the three pieces after trimming and the reserved meaty scraps (at top). Note that this picture does not show the discarded fat, gristle, etc.
Photo 5 shows the scoring on the inside of one piece.
Now turn your attention to the meaty scraps. As with the three pieces, remove all fat, gristle, and silver skin. Cut into 1" pieces. You should end up with 3/4 to 1-1/2 cups of trimmed scraps.
Photo 6 shows 1-1/2 cups of trimmed scraps.
If you wish, you can stop at this point, put the meat in the refrigerator overnight, and finish the recipe the next day.
Brine The Lamb
Brine the three pieces of lamb for 2 hours in the refrigerator using this recipe. Brining adds flavor to the meat and helps improve its texture, making it seem more tender.
While the lamb is brining, prepare the roasted garlic & parsley paste and the roasted garlic jus.
Prepare The Roasted Garlic & Parsley Paste
You will need the following ingredients for the paste:
Preheat the oven to 400°F.
Remove the papery outer skins from each garlic head and cut off the top 1/3 to expose the cloves inside. Place the garlic cut-side up on a sheet of aluminum foil. Drizzle with olive oil and wrap the foil tightly around the garlic to form a pouch.
Place the pouch on a baking sheet and bake for 40-45 minutes or until the cloves are very soft and golden brown, as shown in Photo 8. I roasted three heads...you can never have too much roasted garlic around!
Let the garlic cool until it can be handled safely, then squeeze out the soft insides. Use the side of a chef's knife to mash the cloves into a smooth paste.
In a bowl, combine 2 Tablespoons of garlic paste with the parsley and mix thoroughly. Reserve 2 Tablespoons of the remaining paste for the roasted garlic jus.
Photo 9 shows the finished paste.Prepare The Roasted Garlic Jus
You will need the following ingredients for the jus:
Heat the vegetable oil in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add the lamb and onions, stirring occasionally and cooking until the lamb is browned and the onions are soft and golden, about 8-10 minutes (reduce the heat to medium if the browned bits in the bottom of the pan start getting very dark).
Add wine and simmer about 1 minute. Scrape the bottom of the pan to loosen the browned bits. Stir in broth and garlic paste. Simmer until reduced by half, about 15-20 minutes. Strain the jus through a fine-mesh strainer into a small saucepan and discard the solids. Add vinegar. Cover and keep warm until served.
Apply Paste & Tie The Lamb
Remove the lamb from the brine. Do not rinse the meat, just pat it dry thoroughly with paper towels.
Spread paste on the scored side of the lamb, making sure to get it into the cuts as shown in Photo 10.
Here are the steps for tying the lamb. Tying keeps the paste inside the meat and creates a small roast shape. For a lesson in tying knots, watch the How To Tie A Roast video.
Photo 11 shows a tied roast. Photo 12 shows the three roasts ready for the cooker.
Just before cooking, season each roast with kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper on all surfaces.
Fire The WSM
Fire-up the cooker using the Standard Method—one full Weber chimney of hot Kingsford charcoal briquettes in the charcoal bowl, followed by another full chimney of unlit Kingsford, allowing all coals to become fully lit before cooking. If you have two chimneys, you can fire both simultaneously.
Foil The Water Pan
Cover the inside and outside of the water pan with wide, heavy duty aluminum foil. Place the pan inside the cooker, but leave it empty.
Smoke The Lamb
Place 1-2 small chunks of dry smoke wood on the coals. I used 2 chunks of oak wood, maybe equivalent to a single fist-sized chunk.
Assemble the cooker and
place the lamb roasts on the top grate. Set the top vent and three bottom
vents to 100% open and leave them that way
throughout the entire cook.
Cook the lamb to an
internal temperature of 120°F for medium-rare, 125°F for medium, 130°F for
medium-well, approximately 30-40 minutes. Start checking the internal temp
after about 20 minutes.
Here's how the cooker temperatures and vent settings went during my cook:
Due to differences in size, the roasts may finish cooking at different times, so remove them from the cooker to a plate as each one is done. Check the temperature in several locations and average the results to determine doneness.
Notice that in my cook, two of the roasts reached about 130°F after 30 minutes of cooking, while the third larger roast cooked an additional 10 minutes.
Sear The Lamb
Searing the lamb adds great flavor and color to the meat.
Remove the top cooking grate from the cooker and set it aside. Lift off the middle cooking section and set it aside. Use tongs to evenly spread out the hot coals in the charcoal chamber, if necessary.
Place the cooking grate directly on top of the charcoal chamber. Sear the lamb roasts on all four sides, approximately 2 minutes per side or until browned to your liking.
You'll have lots of hot coals leftover after searing the lamb, so consider putting that fire to good use by grilling additional meat, veggies, or maybe a dessert.
Rest Then Slice The Lamb
Remove the lamb from the hot coals to a plate. Tent with foil and let rest for 15 minutes before slicing.
Snip the kitchen twine and remove it. Slice the meat into 1/4" slices. Pour any accumulated juices from the plate into the jus and stir. Arrange slices on a plate and spoon on some of the jus.
Photo 16 shows the seared lamb after a 15 minute rest, cooked to medium doneness.
Photos 17-18 show the lamb and roasted garlic jus plated with rice pilaf and mixed vegetables.
I wrote in my cooking log that the meat had a dark, mahogany-colored exterior and was very moist and tender inside with a small smoke ring. The flavor was milder than beef, but stronger than pork tenderloin, and not at all gamy. It had a pronounced garlic flavor that garlic lovers will enjoy, but even those who are sensitive to garlic will not find objectionable.
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