I have done Greek lamb for the last three Easter Sundays. While I love Greek lamb, I wanted to do something different for this year. After looking at dozens of recipes on-line I could not find any that really grabbed me.
A few weeks ago, I started experimenting with buttermilk as a meat tenderizer. I thought about using something similar with my lamb this time. Jan has been using kefir to make her smoothies and there is always a bottle in our refrigerator. I thought why not?
Jan bought me some Turkish Seasoning from PenZeys Spices and it has just been sitting in my spice cabinet taking up space. Starting with this as the foundation, I took one ingredient from one recipe on-line, another ingredient from another recipe, and so on. In the end it turned into a very eclectic recipe, very California Fusion. Turkish spices, keifer from the Caucuses, and shallots and anchovy paste to enhance the flavor.
Many of the marinades I looked at called for massive amount of salt. While much of this gets wasted when you discard the excess, it still makes the final product too salty for my household. I tend to replace the salt with healthier spices for the seasoning.
To go with my barbecued lamb, I decided to make a pan-Middle Eastern feast. Not to be bound by boarders I made artichoke salad, Israeli couscous, and pan-roasted garbanzo beans. Persian pickles and olives completed the side dishes.
After Dinner Note: I did not get the very dark crusty surface that I got with my Greek lamb, but the marinade made the meat really tender and juicy. All in all, every said this was one of the best lamb dishes they had ever had.
Karl’s Barbequed Kefir Lamb
1½ cups plain kefir, separate uses
3 Tbs. Turkish Seasoning, separate uses
5 large garlic cloves, minced, separate uses
1 small shallot, grated, separate uses
1+ tsp. anchovy paste, separate uses
1+ tsp. black pepper, freshly ground, separate uses
1+ tsp. Kosher salt, separate uses
¼+ cup extra-virgin olive oil, separate uses
2 Tbs. fresh lemon juice, separate uses
Pinch dry yellow mustard powder
1 leg of lamb, butterflied (3–4 pounds)
1 lemon, quartered (optional)
1. In a bowl, mix 1 cup kefir, 3 Tbs. zatar, 4 cloves garlic, all but 1 Tbs. of the grated shallot, 1 tsp. anchovy paste, 1 tsp. pepper, 1 tsp. Kosher salt, ¼ cup olive oil, and 1 ½ Tbs. lemon juice.
2. Spread the marinade on one side of the lamb and roll it up.
3. Place the lamb in a sealable gallon plastic bag and pour the rest of the marinade over the lamb.
4. Press as much of the air out of the bag as you can and seal it tightly. Squish the marinade around so that all surfaces of the lamb are coated.
Place in a bowl and refrigerate at least 4 hours, turning the lamb over every hour or so.
Tip: If you marinate overnight, turn the lamb over four or five times.
5. In a small pot, add 1 Tbs. olive oil, 1 clove of minced garlic and 1 Tbs. of the grated shallot, sauté until fragrant, about one minute.
6. Stir in ½ cup kefir, ½ Tbs. zatar, 1 tsp. lemon juice, ¼ tsp. sumac, 1/8 tsp. anchovy paste, 1/8 tsp. pepper, a pinch of Kosher salt and a pinch of yellow mustard. Warm stirring frequently, but do not boil, for 3 minutes.
Tip: The yellow mustard acts as an emulsifier so that the oil, kefir and lemon juice will combine into a sauce, instead of the oil just floating on top.
7. Transfer to a sealable container and refrigerate the kefir sauce until serving time.
8. Prepare grill with a bi level heat.
Tip: After the coals are well lit push them to the back half of the grill. Sear the meat directly over the coals and then move the meat over the side with no coals. When you close the grill lid, the meat bakes with out burning.
9. Remove the lamb from the bag and discard the excess marinade.
10. Pat the lamb dry with paper towels
Tip: You are not trying to wipe off all of the marinade; you are just trying to remove the excess moisture so you can get a good sear.
11. Season the lamb with one tablespoon of Turkish Seasoning, pepper and salt.
13. Sear the lamb.
Tip: Five minutes on each side, directly over the coals.
14. Move the lamb over to the side of the barbeque that has no coals. Insert a constant read thermometer into the thickest part of the meat and close the cover of the grill.
Tip: The lamb until it is done medium-rare when the thermometer registers an internal temperature of 135-140° F .
15. Remove the lamb to a serving platter and tent the lamb with foil to keep it warm. Let it rest for 10 minutes.
Note: (Optional) Place the lemon wedges directly over the coals when you move the meat to grill them. Turn them over after five minutes.
16. Thinly slice the lamb against the grain and arrange it on a platter.
17. Serve with the yogurt sauce and (optional) garnish with the roasted lemons.