Lamb marries perfectly with garlic. Sweet spices such as cardamom and cinnamon likewise complement. I mix all the above with aromatic coriander, cumin and fennel. I like to serve the grilled lamb with a condiment made of shredded cucumber and plain yogurt. Labneh, the Middle Eastern yogurt, tastes especially rich and satisfying. The combo reminds my family of gyros, so we serve it with flatbreads, toasted until warm on the grill.
This recipe is by JeanMarie Brownson and was originally published in the Chicago Tribune.
- 1 boneless leg of lamb, about 8 pounds
- 3 to 5 large cloves garlic, cut into thin slivers
- 10 cardamom pods, crushed (or 1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom)
- 2 Teaspoons ground coriander
- 2 Teaspoons ground cumin
- 2 Teaspoons salt
- 1 Teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1 Teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1 Teaspoon crushed fennel seeds, optional
- 2 Cups cherry or apple wood chips, optional
- Extra-virgin olive oil
- Cucumber yogurt sauce (recipe follows)
For the cucumber yogurt sauce:
- 1 large seedless cucumber
- 2 to 3 cloves garlic
- 1 Teaspoon salt
- 16 Ounces labneh or plain Greek yogurt
- 3 Tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro, mint or chives (or a combination)
Step 1: Cut 1 (8 pound) boneless leg of lamb into two even pieces. Use a very sharp small knife to cut small slits in the lamb at regular intervals; insert a sliver of garlic (cut from 3 to 5 large cloves) into each slit as you go.
Step 2: In a small dish, combine 10 crushed cardamom pods (or 1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom), 2 teaspoons ground coriander, 2 teaspoons ground cumin, 2 teaspoons salt, 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon, 1 teaspoon ground black pepper and 1 teaspoon crushed fennel seeds (optional).
Step 3: Rub the spices into the lamb on all sides. The lamb can be refrigerated in a glass dish, covered lightly with butcher paper, for 8 hours or up to 3 days.
Step 4: Prepare a charcoal grill or heat a gas grill to medium hot. If using, soak 2 cups cherry or apple wood chips in water to cover, about 30 minutes. Then drain and periodically sprinkle the chips over the hot coals. (If using a gas grill, set the chips on a piece of foil and place the packet over the heat source.)
Step 5: Spray or brush lamb on all sides with olive oil. Place the lamb directly over the heat source. Cover the grill; cook, 12 minutes. Turn lamb over. Cover grill; continue grilling until a meat thermometer registers 140 F when inserted in the thickest portion, about 11 to 13 minutes more.
Step 6: Transfer lamb to a cutting board. Cover loosely with foil; let stand, about 10 to 15 minutes.
Step 7: Use a very sharp knife to slice the lamb thinly. Serve with the cucumber yogurt sauce (recipe follows).
For the cucumber yogurt sauce:
Step 1: Peel off and discard about half of the skin from 1 large seedless cucumber. Put a four-sided grater into a colander. Use the largest holes to shred the cucumber into the colander.
Step 2: Crush 2 to 3 garlic cloves into the cucumber strands; stir in 1 teaspoon salt.
Step 3: Let everything drain in the sink or over a bowl, about 30 minutes. Use your hands to squeeze as much water as you can out of the cucumber.
Step 4: Put the squeezed cucumber mixture into a bowl. Stir in 16 ounces labneh or plain Greek yogurt and 3 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro, mint or chives (or a combination). Stir until well mixed. Refrigerate up to 2 days. Stir well before serving. Makes about 2 cups.