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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.