Easter is upon us and, in this household, this means lamb. Since I like to mix up my cultures while cooking, son-in-law Chris suggested a Greek korma lamb. This would be lamb braised in yogurt but with Greek, rather than Indian, flavors. While most of my diners would be fine with this, the wife, Jan, only likes lamb barbecued. To meet both their desires I decided to barbecue the lamb and top it with a hot yogurt sauce on the side, something like a hot tzatziki.
Karl’s Barbecued Greek Lamb Korma
½ leg of lamb (about 4lb., boned and butterflied)
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
15 large cloves garlic, crushed
1 Tbs. dried oregano, rubbed
2 tsp. fresh rosemary, minced
2 tsp. black pepper
1 tsp. Kosher salt
¼ cup whole milk Greek yogurt, plain
¼ cup fresh lemon juice
2 tsp. honey
1 tsp lemon zest
Karl’s Greek Korma Sauce
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
1 cup onion, finely diced
¼ tsp. Kosher salt (or more to taste)
½ English cucumber, peeled, seeded and grated (about one cup)
5 cloves garlic, crushed (or more to taste)
1 cup whole milk Greek yogurt, plain
1 tsp. dried oregano, rubbed
½ tsp. fresh rosemary, minced
¼ tsp. black pepper
1 Tbs. fresh mint, chiffonade
2 Tbs. fresh lemon juice (or more to taste)
Fresh mint sprig for garnish (optional)
1. The day before your dinner, put the olive oil, garlic, oregano, rosemary, pepper, honey, and salt into a bowl and make a paste.
Tip: While the lemon juice and yogurt will make the meat more tender. However, if you marinate the meat overnight in them the surface of the meat may get spongy. Wait until four hours before barbecuing to add the second marinade.
2. Spread half of the marinade on the inside surface of the lamb. Roll the meat up and place it into a gallon plastic bag. Pour half of the remaining marinade over the meat and then rotate it in the bag. Pour the rest of the marinade in and spread it around until all of the meat is coated.
3. Press all of the air out of the bag and seal it well.
4. Put the lamb in the refrigerator and turn it over every 4 to 6 hours.
5. An hour before you barbecue, set the bag of lamb on the counter to come to room temperature.
6. About four hours before you plan to start cooking your meat, mix the yogurt, lemon juice, honey, and zest.
7/ Unroll the lamb and use paper towels to wipe off any excess marinade.
Tip: You are not trying to wipe the meat clean, just to clear the way for the second marinade.
8. Spread half of the yogurt marinade on the inside surface of the lamb. Roll the meat up and place it into a gallon plastic bag. Pour half of the remaining marinade over the meat and then rotate it in the bag. Pour the rest of the marinade in and spread it around until all of the meat is coated.
Tip: You may use the same plastic bag, without cleaning it.
9. Press all of the air out of the bag and seal it well.
10. Put the lamb in the refrigerator and turn it over every half hour.
11. An hour before you plan to barbecue, remove the bag of lamb from the refrigerator and set it on the counter.
Tip: The meat will grill more evenly at room temperature, than it would if it was cold from the refrigerator.
12. While the meat is sitting on the counter, unroll the lamb and pat it dry with paper towels.
Tip: Again, you are not trying to wipe the meat clean, you are just trying to dry the surface so that you get a good sear. Too much surface moisture will cause the meat to steam for the first few minutes on the grill.
13. Start your coals about 20 minutes before starting to cook. When most of the coals are well lit, push all of them to the back of your barbecue.
Tip: This is a bi-level barbecue, the back of the grill has high heat and the front edge has a lower heat. This allows you to control the meat’s cooking temperature.
14. Sear your lamb by laying it over the hot coals for 6-8 minutes per side.
15. Move the lamb to the front of the grill (the side with no coals) and insert a meat thermometer into the thickest part of the meat.
Tip: This would be a good time to prep the ingredients for the sauce so that they are ready when you are.
Note: In addition to grating the cucumber, you salt it to get it to release much of its moisture. After 20 minutes you squeeze off the excess fluid.
16. Remove and tent your meat when the lamb reaches an internal temperature of 145° F (135° for rare).
Note: I use a constant read electric model with a temperature alarm that buzzes when the meat reaches the set point. Close the cover and mostly close any vents on the barbecue.
17. Remove the lamb from the grill and wrap it in foil to finish cooking.
18. While the meat is resting, make the Korma sauce
19. Heat the olive oil in a medium sauce pan and sauté the onions until soft, about 5 minutes.
20. Add the dried cucumber and continue sautéing for four more minutes.
21. Pull the vegetables to the edges of the pan and add the garlic to the hole in the center. Sauté the garlic for one minute, until fragrant.
22. Add the yogurt, oregano, rosemary, pepper, mint, lemon juice, and sugar and reduce the heat.
23. Continue cooking the sauce over a low heat for five minutes, until starting to thicken.
24. Slice the lamb across the grain and arrange it on a serving platter.
Tip: You may add any released meat juices to the sauce and cook them down.
25. Spoon some of the sauce over the meat and garnish with sprigs of mint.
Tip: Serve the remainder of the sauce on the side, to be added as desired by your diners.