Smackdown: Pull My Leg

lamb, cropped

You WISH your house smelled like my house smells.

Tonight: spice crusted leg of lamb with fresh mint and coriander sauce, and an orange and radish salad, courtesy of Sparks in the Kitchen.

I went into this with some trepidation, as I do all meals where there is the potential to flush large amounts of cash down the crapper if you fuck things up; a leg o’ lamb ain’t cheap. But it looked easy enough, and Katy Sparks has not led me astray yet, so I went for it. Because when the weather is this nice, what you really want to do is come home and crank the hell out of the oven.


Even though the lamb was only supposed to marinate in the spice crust for 4 hours, I put it in last night, otherwise I’d have been roasting at 11pm, eating at 1am, falling asleep on the computer at 3am, shorting it out with my drool (which is prodigious, you can ask Brian) at 3:45am and waking up cranky as all get-out at 7:30am. So I’m sure Ms. Sparks will forgive me the overnight marinade.

I didn’t want to deal with pulling out and then having to clean the coffee grinder to pulverize the fresh spices necessary, so I decided to do it by hand. Which I had to do in a molcajete, because I’ve lost the pestle part of my mortar and pestle, leaving me with a useless marble bowl which, for reasons unknown, I will not get rid of. In my skewed world, where I HATE washing dishes, it is easier to painstakingly grind spices by hand and then quickly rinse the bowl than it is to press a button and have a machine do the job for me but have to painstakingly wash out the coffee grinder.

Guess how easy it is to try and crush a small round object in a shallow bowl with a blunt tool? Yeah, that easy.

Those bastards shoot EVERYWHERE. My future grandchildren will find them after I die and they’re rooting through my stuff. So I ended up having to pull the coffee grinder out anyway which, unbeknownst to me, goes IN THE DISHWASHER. Goddamit.


Once I had the spice paste ready to go, I hauled a 5-pound leg of lamb out of the fridge.

Note to Fresh Direct lamb packaging department:

Dear Sirs and/or Ma’ams,

A flimsy styrofoam tray is not sturdy enough to hold a 5-pound leg of lamb. But I will not realize this when it is late at night and I am tiredly trying to get my lamb in its marinade, and I will pick it up by the tray. Luckily, I will catch it in time and avoid washing my kitchen floor with lamb’s blood, but I’d rather have averted that moment of panic entirely.

Better packaging, please.

Thank you,

leg, 2

Here is the lamb, post-mauling. It’s had little slits cut all over it to house chunks of garlic and sprigs of rosemary, and has been forced to sit in a spice marinade that stained the outside of the flesh from rosy pink to rusty, significantly less appetizing orange.

I rushed home from work to get it in the oven, not quite trusting the 1 hour, 20 minute cooking time listed in the recipe. I mean, I have no real reason to distrust her, but we’re talking about a big hunk of meat. I put it in a high heat to develop a crust, then knocked the heat back and stood transfixed in the kitchen, smelling the truly loverly smell coming from my oven.

orange-radish salad

While it roasted, I got the mint and coriander sauce and orange/radish salad together.

I chose the orange/radish salad because (1) I like oranges, (2) I like radishes, (3) she recommended it as a light side to the lamb and (4) it looked easy. And if you like two foodstuffs, it makes perfect sense to throw them together regardless of whether they belong. Like lobster stuffed with tacos.

I always feel kinda bad peeling an orange with a knife; I feel like I’m wasting a ton of orange flesh. Which I’m not, I inspected the peel intently to determine exactly how much I was wasting (8%), but I still feel guilty. At least she didn’t ask me to supreme them. But then, if she had I probably wouldn’t have picked this salad, because supreming, for me, is not easy.

Is that a verb, “supreming”? It feels wrong.

herb sauce

The mint sauce was another quick chop: mint, cilantro, shallots and more ground coriander (done by hand again, since the coffee grinder was still in the dishwasher), mixed with champagne vinegar, water and sugar. Apparently, this will keep for up to 2 weeks, although it will turn an “unlovely” shade of brown. Appetizing!

leg, 3lamb, 4

I must call shenanigans on the 1 hour, 20 minute cooking time, as suspected; at that mark it was barely registering 100 degrees.

Nearly two and a half hours after going in the oven, the needle was close enough to 140 for me, so I took it out and let it rest to finish coming up to temperature. And promptly did NOT wait long enough, because it just smelled so good and I was so hungry and the spicy crust was beckoning, beckoning. CONFOUND YOU, DELICIOUS SPICY CRUST. So I may have hacked off a nubbin. Cook’s privileges.

But seriously, look at that shit. You would have done the same.

dinner is served

This was a freaking good dinner, and I am only sad that the final photograph does not do it anywhere near the justice it deserves. The lamb was juicy and tender; not at all overwhelmed by the spicy crust. The orange picked up the citrus notes in the coriander, which was in both the spice crust and the herb sauce, pulling everything together. The herbs were bright and fresh, heightened by the vinegar, and lightened up what could have been some heavy slabs of lamb.

The orange salad was a bit of a shock: although I like all the components, I was a little doubtful once it was assembled (although it was gorgeous). Oranges dressed with vinaigrette and sea salt? Really?

YES REALLY. Sweet, salty, spicy, and a perfect complement to the lamb.

Katy Sparks: You can buy her book on Amazon for $0.24, and it is the best quarter you will ever spend.

7 thoughts on “Smackdown: Pull My Leg

  1. Delicious! Plus I love the extremely ladylike side dish… did you have a big lot of roasted potatoes somewhere ‘off-camera’? I bloody-well-hope-so. (You like the Aussie cussing?).

  2. One of these days, I’m going to get brave enough to try leg of lamb. That looks SO amazingly good. And I am sho-nuff dropping a quarter on that book; have not seen the cookbook yet I wouldn’t spend a quarter on, and props from you raises the ante considerably.

  3. What temperature do you let the lamb reach (i.e. room, refrigerator, inside of Sally Struther’s waistband, etc) before you stick it in the oven? Do you think that would affect cooking time? Because I know they tend to have it all completely room temperature, and I rarely have the patience to wait for that, ergo it takes longer in the oven.

    Supreming is totally a verb.

  4. Yeah. I do wish my house smelled like that. So the marinating time was less than the recipe said, and the cooking time was more? Maybe the whole thing was just meant to be reveresed.

    I’m impressed you were able to caculate the percentage of left-behind orange flesh. I’m terrible at math!

  5. I’m SO with you on the painstaking cutting/grinding vs. dishes–that’s why I never use the food processor. Cutting and grinding are COOKING, which is FUN, so who cares if it takes longer. Cleaning little ridges and corners is CLEANING, which is NOT FUN, so must be done as fast as possible.

    Logical? No, since the FoPro also goes in the dishwasher. But in my defense, those little pieces tend to harbor debris even after cleaning.

  6. fig, nope, no potatoes. we were stuffed enough as is with the lamb and the salad!

    kay, i was scared, but it was easy. and the leftovers make a kick-ass sandwich.

    kristie, it was mostly fridge-temp, which probably accounts for the cooking time. because i’m sure i totally missed a step that said “take it out of the fridge ahead of time.” it’s my way.

    rachel, yeah, it was a very scientific calculation, you can be sure.

    lissa, i like the way you think.

  7. Did you know that you could clean your spice/coffee grinder really easily by tearing up some pieces of (fresh or leftover, latter is better) bread and whizzing them around in there? The bread crumbs helpfully stick themselves to all the spice bits and are wicked easy to dump out. A quick swoosh with a paper towel, and, voila!

    I do spices AND coffee in the same grinder, and never have any noticeable cross-flavor-ination.

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