Grilled Leg of Lamb with New Olive Oil

Michele Anna Jordan

Preparing a leg of lamb is simple. You do not need any special skills, especially if you ask your butcher to butterfly it for you. New olive oil—Olio Nuovo—is available from several California producers in December, shortly after the year’s olive harvest is complete. A small amount is also imported from Italy.
 

Wine recommendations: Olio Nuovo is full-bodied, fruity and lively, qualities that can be reflected in a wine served alongside. Radio-Coteau 2003 Von Weidlich Zinfandel from the Russian River Valley is as engaging and appealing match as you can find. The wine is young and fruity, yet with a depth and plushness that suggests maturity. Pretty herbal qualities and subtle threads of spiciness engage beautifully with both the olive oil and the coriander. A Zinfandel such as Quivira 2003 Dry Creek Valley Zinfandel is also robust enough to match the oil’s fruitiness; elements of tobacco smoke, toasted bread and bacon in the wine engage the smokiness of the grilled lamb and earthiness of the garlic and coriander rub. To approach pairing from a different direction, the fat of the olive oil will soften the young tannins of a California Syrah, such as McDowell 2002 Mendocino County Syrah.
 

Ingredients
  • 10 to 12 large fresh garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
  • 2 tablespoons kosher salt, plus more to taste
  • 1 teaspoon crushed coriander seed
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 leg of lamb, preferably American, boned and butterflied
  • Extra virgin olive oil, preferably 2005 Olio Nuovo
Directions

Preparing a leg of lamb is simple. You do not need any special skills, especially if you ask your butcher to butterfly it for you. New olive oil—Olio Nuovo—is available from several California producers in December, shortly after the year’s olive harvest is complete. A small amount is also imported from Italy.

Put the crushed garlic into a suribachi or large mortar, add about half the salt and use a wooden pestle to grind into a paste. Mix in the coriander, several generous turns of black pepper and the olive oil. Set the lamb on a clean work surface. Sprinkle the remaining salt over the lamb and then rub the paste over it. Set in a large baking dish or other container, cover and refrigerate at least two hours and as long as overnight.

To cook the lamb, prepare a fire in a charcoal grill. When the coals are evenly covered with ash, set the lamb on a clean grill rack and cook, turning now and then, until the temperature in the thickest part of the muscle reaches about 120°F. Time will vary based on the heat of the coals, but it should take about 25 to 30 minutes; begin to test after 20 minutes. Transfer to a platter, cover loosely with a sheet of foil and let rest for 15 to 20 minutes. Use a very sharp knife to cut the lamb into thin slices. Arrange the sliced lamb on a platter, grouping rare, medium-rare and well-done cuts. Season lightly with salt and pepper and drizzle olive oil over the top. Serve immediately, with more olive oil alongside.

Published on July 6, 2010
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