Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Honey smoked a leg last night (that's leg of lamb, silly).

Writing a blog focused on food brings dinner to a whole new level. You can't just cook something and eat it, you have to photograph it and remember what you put in it! Sometimes things taste good, but don't photograph well, like one of my barbecue leftovers last week. On the flip side, it's easy to cheat, and hide mistakes with the camera. My Harvest Cake was delicious, but it fell in a few spots. I was going to come clean in that blog post, but it was already getting too long. I'm confessing now:

Last night honey came home with lamb to smoke. You can imagine my glee: I love smoked lamb, and I love when dinner is "postable". This dinner embodied the trifecta - it looked great, tasted better, and Eric took some great shots for the blog. All I had to do was show up and eat (and write a little, which is never a chore).

One of the reasons I love barbecue lamb is that I think the wood smoke enhances the meat and makes it better. We never ate lamb in our family. My mom rarely strayed from the basics of chicken, pot roast, ground beef and fish. Pork chops and ham were occasional items, but mom was always a little scared of pork, unless it was cooked to white-grey overdone. Lamb was way out of her comfort zone.

I tried lamb for the first time as a teen at a friend's house (whose father was a halibut fisherman). Her mom served it up fairly often, prepared simply roasted in the oven with a little salt, pepper and maybe garlic. I liked it then, but it was a little gamey and chewy for me. Smoking it mellows the gameyness and brings out the wonderful flavor of the meat. Cooking it at a lower temperature also helps keep it tender.

RECIPE (of a sort)
Lamb leg, however, is great either smoked slow and low, or at a higher temperature. It doesn't have loads of connective tissue like brisket or pork shoulder, which needs time to break down. Eric smoke-roasted this leg on the Weber at about 350 degrees. He first stuffed it with rosemary and garlic cloves, then rubbed it in kosher salt. It took about 2 1/2 hours, cooked indirectly from the fire, with the lid down. I'm guessing he used a mix of grapevine and hickory wood, because that's what I see lying around the yard.

While the lamb cooked, he made a perfect cucumber salad to accompany it. The quantities are a bit of a guess. Getting Eric to write down a recipe is a bit like getting Willie Nelson to pay his taxes.

Cool Greek Cucumber Salad
2 cucumbers, seeds scooped out, sliced
1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt
1/2 cup vinaigrette salad dressing from the fridge (or equal parts olive oil and lemon juice)
2 oz. feta, crumbled
2 green onions, chopped
Salt and pepper to taste

Serve the lamb with grilled pita bread and the cucumber salad. You'll gobble it up before anyone can take a picture. Lucky you!

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