A festive leg of lamb, slathered with a potent garlicky spice paste and grilled until charred on the outside and juicy-pink within, is just about the best grilling-for-a-crowd recipe there is. Here, it’s topped with sweet-tart golden raisins plumped with white wine and preserved lemon, and an herbal, chili-spiked Moroccan charmoula. Serve it with grilled crusty bread and a simple bitter greens salad.
Serves 16 to 20
For the Lamb:
7 fat garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 tablespoon plus 1/4 teaspoon coarse kosher salt
1 tablespoon whole coriander seed
1 tablespoon whole cumin seed
1 tablespoon ras-el-hanout
1/8 teaspoon cayenne
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 (7-pound) boneless, butterflied leg of lamb, rinsed and patted dry
Plumped Golden Raisins:
1 cup white wine
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 cup golden raisins
2 tablespoons minced preserved lemon or 1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
Fresh lemon juice, to taste
2 cups cilantro leaves and tender stems
1 cup parsley leaves and tender stems
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
4 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
1 teaspoon smoked sweet paprika
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon kosher salt
Pinch cayenne pepper
1. To make the lamb, in a mortar and pestle, mash the garlic with 1/4 teaspoon salt until it forms a paste. Scrape garlic into a small bowl.
2. In a small skillet over medium heat, toast the coriander and cumin seed until fragrant, about 3 minutes. Transfer spices to the mortar and pestle and crush gently. Scrape into the bowl with the garlic. Add the ras-el-hanout and cayenne to the garlic-spice mixture; whisk in the oil.
3. Arrange the lamb, unrolled, on a cutting board. Season meat all over with the remaining 1 tablespoon salt and black pepper. Rub the garlic-spice mixture over the meat. Transfer meat to a large bowl or roasting pan, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate at least 2 hours or overnight. Bring meat to room temperature for 30 minutes before cooking.
4. To make the raisins, combine the wine and sugar in a small saucepan. Simmer over medium heat for 5 minutes. Stir in the raisins and cover pot. Let cool completely. Spoon the raisins and any liquid clinging to them into a bowl; discard remaining wine mixture. Stir in the preserved lemon and lemon juice to taste. Cover tightly until ready to use (this can be made a few day ahead and stored in the refrigerator).
5. To make the charmoula, combine all of the ingredients in a food processor or blender and puree, scraping down the sides as needed, until it forms a smooth paste. Scrape into a bowl and cover with plastic wrap until ready to use (can be made up to 6 hours ahead).
6. To cook the lamb, preheat grill to medium-high. Transfer meat to the grill, close cover, and cook to desired doneness, about 8 minutes per side for medium-rare. Let meat rest 5 minutes before slicing. Serve with charmoula and raisins alongside or on top.
If your grill isn’t up and running this early in the season, or if you don’t have one, you can make this in the oven with terrific results. Just preheat the oven to 500°F, and once the oven comes to temperature, let it continue heating for 15 minutes. Switch the heat to broil and arrange an oven rack six inches from the flame (if you have a separate broiling until, preheat broiler for 15 minutes). Place the lamb, flat and fatty side-up, on a wire rack set over a large baking sheet; if the lamb won’t fit, cut it in half and cook them lamb in batches. Broil the lamb until cooked to desired doneness, about 6 to 8 minutes per side for medium-rare. Let meat rest 5 minutes before slicing.
When you unroll the lamb, it’s not going to lie in an even slab on your countertop. It will be a bumpy, divot-y mess. Some parts will be thick and bulbous, others thinner and flat, and it won’t all cook to the same level of doneness at the same time. That’s okay. In fact, it’s good. The thick parts will be nice and bloody for your rare meat loving friends while the thin parts will satisfy the medium-to-well one crowd. That’s part of what makes boned leg of lamb such a perfect party dish – there’s something for everyone (excepting the vegetarians…).
You can use this basic, grilled leg of lamb recipe as a template for any seasonings and garnishes you like. If you’re using excellent meat, all it really needs is a rub down with plenty of coarse salt and cracked pepper. Then grill it up and serve it with some strong mustard on the side, maybe mixed with a minced garlic clove and some chopped rosemary. It will fill the bill in a simple, unfussy way and sometimes that’s all you want.
This recipe serves a lot of people. If you’re not having a party, you can cook half the lamb and freeze half for another time. Freeze it after you’ve already marinated it. That way all you’ll have to do upon defrosting is throw it on the grill. Or, cook it all and use the leftover meat to make the best lamb sandwiches imaginable. A smear of harissa, the North African spice paste, on the bread will give it a spicy, earthy kick.