Last week I got an email from Paul over at BostonChefs.com asking me if I would like to participate in the inaugural American Lamb Pro-Am. The Pro-Am is a competition held by the American Lamb Board in which 10 bloggers in Boston and Cambridge develop an original recipe, make that recipe, and then blog about that recipe (I'm obviously in step 3). Once all the links are live, they are posted on BostonChefs.com and you can vote for the best one!
I agreed to compete for a couple of reasons. They are as follows:
1. I've never been in a recipe competition and the lure of feeling like an Iron Chef was too much to pass up.
2. I like lamb. And sure, up until Tuesday I had never actually cooked it, but I like to eat it. That counts for something, right?
3. I'll jump on any opportunity to hang out with others in the Boston Food Blogger community, like my friend Richard who is also competing, is extremely talented, and has some serious thoughts about burgers.
So on Monday night I went to the Russel House Tavern in Harvard Square for the American Lamb Pro-Am Pick Up party, asked the hostess where I could find the lamb I was supposed to pick up, which was by far the weirdest thing I've ever said to a hostess, and left with the biggest piece of meat I've ever worked with. Let the Pro-Am begin!
I decided to roast my boneless leg of lamb using a Mexican inspired marinade and turn that roast into tacos. The marinade came first. In a blender, I added some Mexican style tomato sauce that had been flavored with onion, garlic and cilantro...
...lime zest and lime juice...
...Chipotle chilies, the adobo sauce that the chipotles sit in, 1 jalapeno, some chicken stock, and a whole bunch of cilantro. I blended it until it was smooth then took a big whiff. Don't do this. It's pretty spicy and it will make you cough and your eyes water. Trust me here. When I recovered, I tasted for seasonings then added some salt and pepper.
I set the marinade aside and set my sights on the leg of lamb. Take a look at this thing!
I untied the lamb and patted it dry with a paper towel. Then I poured about 1/2 cup of the marinate over the lamb and rolled it around so that it was completely covered.
I let that marinate for about 45 minutes while I preheated my oven. When it was finished, I took a sharp knife and scored the fat cap of the lamb, because when fat meets high heat, it shrinks. Think bacon.
After scoring the meat, I took a sharp paring knife and cut some slits into the meat. I inserted whole garlic cloves into the slits and pushed them down as far as possible so that lovely garlic flavor would infuse the meat while it was cooking.
Infuse. Listen to me. I sound Iron Chefy already. Ahem...
"So please allow me to introduce a veritable pantheon of culinary giants: your very own Iron Chefs, America. Iron Chef HATSIE HALEY!"
I wish, Alton Brown. I wish.
I prepared a roasting pan by lining it with foil and placing the roasting rack on top of the foil.
Then I did the most genius thing I think I've ever done in the kitchen. I cut an onion into thick slices and put them on the roasting pan for the lamb to rest on. This is not genius in the sense that I made this technique up, only in the sense that I hadn't planned on doing this, then genius struck, and I did it. The idea was that as the lamb roasted, the fat would drip down onto the onions and they would become caramelized and wonderful.
I placed the marinated lamb on top of the onions and put it in a very hot oven for 30 minutes to sear the outside skin.
I let the lamb roast for 30 minutes on high heat, then I took it out and basted it with some of the remaining marinade.
Look at that little garlic clove trying to make a break for it. Cute.
I lowered the heat to 350 degrees and roasted it for an hour and half more, basting it with more marinade every hour or so, then finished it for 30 minutes at 400 degrees until a meat thermometer read 145 degrees for a medium rare. I removed the lamb from the oven and let it rest for 30 more minutes before carving.
While the lamb was roasting, and smelling delicious I might add, I mixed up the spicy slaw to top the tacos.
I chopped up some cilantro and added it to a bowl.
Yum. Then I added some cabbage, lime zest, and lime juice.
And then some jalapenos and sour cream.
I mixed that all up, then seasoned with salt and pepper.
I tasted for seasonings and decided it needed a little something, so I added some paprika and a few dashes of my favorite hot sauce, Cholula.
I love the color of paprika.
The final step for the tacos, before assembly of course, was to toast the corn tortillas. I sprayed some non-stick spray in a pan set over medium high heat and added the corn tortillas to toast on each side for about 30 seconds.
I just wanted them to cook until they looked like this:
Finally, I assembled the tacos! And this is when the onions come into play. The fat in the lamb did exactly what I wanted it to do and the onions became super onions and I wanted to eat them by themselves. I'm telling you. Genius.
Oh, those onions.
So on the tortilla I layered some of those caramelized onions and a few pieces of carved roast lamb.
Then I topped the tacos with the spicy slaw.
And finally I topped the tacos with some crumbled feta cheese because I couldn't find cojita cheese in my grocery store. I folded them up and served with a couple of lime wedges on the side for a little extra zing.
And there you have it. Lamb tacos.
The tacos were the perfect combination of flavors. The lamb was nicely flavored with the spicy Mexican marinade and garlic cloves, and paired really nicely with the spicy, zingy coleslaw.
This meal was delicious and exciting for many reasons, one being that I developed a recipe that was actually pretty good. I cooked something that was completely new to me, and the fact that it turned out not only palatable but worthy of seconds is a testament to lamb's versatility and ease.
I'm definitely a fan of lamb and you should be too!
I'm so honored to be a part of the inaugural American Lamb Pro-Am and had such a good time participating. If you like this recipe, please go to BostonChefs.Com on Monday and vote for Two Recipes! But even if you don't vote, go cook some lamb! It's delicious!
But please vote. On Monday. Voting goes live on Monday.
Here's the recipe:
Roast Lamb Tacos with Spicy Slaw
For the Lamb:
- 1 8 oz can of Mexican tomato sauce (I used Goya Onion Garlic and cilantro)
- Zest and juice of 1 lime
- 1 jalapeno
- 1/4 cup chicken stock
- 2 chipotle peppers
- 4 tablespoons of the adobo sauce that the chipotles are packed in
- 1/2 cup chopped cilantro
- 1 onion, cut into thick slices
- 1 boneless leg of lamb
- 4 garlic cloves, cut in half
- salt and pepper
- Preheat oven to 450 degrees and line a roasting pan with foil and place the roasting rack on top. Lay the onion slices on the roasting rack.
- In a blender, combine first 7 ingredients and blend until well combined. Set aside.
- In a large bowl, add the lamb and remove the ties. Pat well with a paper towel to dry. Pour 1/2 cup of the marinade over the lamb and turn so that it is completely covered in the marinade. Let sit, covered at room temperature, for 45 minutes.
- When the lamb has finished marinated, take a sharp knife and score the fat cap by cutting diagonal lines going both ways. Then take a sharp paring knife and cut 8 holes in the lamb. Insert garlic as far as possible into the meat.
- Lay the leg of lamb over the onions on the roasting rack and put it in the oven for 30 minutes. After 30 minutes, baste with more marinade, reduce the heat to 350 degrees, and cook for an hour and a half more, basting with more marinade every hour or so. After an hour and a half, increase the heat to 400 degrees and roast for 30 more minutes. When inserted to the thickest part of the lamb, a meat thermometer should read 140 degrees for medium rare. If rare is your thing, skip the last 30 minutes and just continue cooking at 350 degrees until the thermometer reads 130 degrees.
- Remove the leg of lamb from the oven and let it rest for 30 minutes. When it is done resting, slice it into thin slices against the grain.
For the Slaw:
- 1/2 cup chopped cilantro
- Zest and juice of one lime
- 2 cups shredded cabbage
- 2 jalapenos, seeds and veins mostly removed, minced
- 1/2 cup sour cream
- 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon paprika
- a couple of dashes of your favorite hot sauce
- In a medium bowl, combine cilantro, lime zest, lime juice, cabbage, minced jalapenos, sour cream and salt and pepper. Mix to combine.
- Add paprika and hot sauce and mix again. Taste for seasonings and adjust if necessary.
- Let sit in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes before serving so the flavors can meld.
To Assemble the Tacos:
- Corn tortillas
- Roast Lamb
- Caramelized onions
- Spicy Slaw
- Crumbled feta cheese (or cojita cheese if you can find it!)
- lime wedges
- In a large skillet sprayed with non-stick spray and set over medium high heat, toast the corn tortillas for 30-40 seconds on each side, just until slightly crispy and brown spots start to show. Set aside.
- Take a corn tortilla and layer with a couple of slices of the caramelized onion, then the lamb, then the spicy slaw and then some crumbled feta or cojita cheese.
- Serve with lime wedges on the side.
Enjoy! And vote for me!