- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 25, 2004

I love to grill all year round, an easy thing to do in my adopted homeland of Southern California. But even in those parts of the country that have autumn and winter instead of never-ending spring and summer, I know people who brave the elements and grill whenever they have a craving for beautiful browned food, crusty on the outside and juicy within, perfumed with the delicious taste of smoke.

More and more people are also adding indoor grills to their home kitchens for the same reason, maybe in part because restaurants like my own feature grilled food on the menu year-round.

Nevertheless, you cannot dispute the fact that summer really is the time to grill. Nor can you argue with the fact that, probably because school goes back into session and summer vacation ends a good several weeks before autumn officially starts, Labor Day weekend has become the unofficial grand finale of grilling season.

With that in mind, I try to make sure that my last big summertime grilled meal is suitably large-scaled. No quick burgers or frankfurters for me — or, I suspect, other grill lovers like me — at a cookout intended to show off what you can really achieve over an open fire.

To that end, I like to grill larger items that call for the indirect-heat method of grilling. By that, I mean the technique by which you turn the grill into a sort of outdoor oven, arranging the fire bed, whether charcoal, wood or gas-fueled, so that the heat source is under only half of the cooking area — either arranged around the perimeter or under just one-half of the bed. That way, you can first quickly sear whatever you’re cooking directly over the heat; and then, once its surface is browned, move it off to the side and close the grill, so that the heat circulates around it, cooking it all the way through to your liking without excessively charring the exterior.

Indirect heat is the key, for example, to cooking perfect bone-in chicken on the grill, without turning it to something that looks like a briquette on the outside while still being rare at the bone. But one of my favorite things to cook slowly this way on the grill is a butterflied leg of lamb, as I do in the recipe that follows. (Ask the butcher to butterfly it for you.) Cook the meat until rare or medium-rare, 125 to 130 degrees (52 to 55 C) on an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part, and you’ll have the perfect outdoor roast with which to impress your guests on the last official weekend of grilling — or any time you want to grill.


Serves 6 to 8

1 butterflied boneless leg of lamb, 5 to 6 pounds (2.5 to 3 kg) total weight

6 large firm, ripe tomatoes, cut horizontally in halves

1/2 cup (125 ml) extra-virgin olive oil, plus extra for tomatoes

1/4 cup (60 ml) fresh lemon juice

1/4 cup (60 ml) balsamic vinegar

1/4 cup (60 ml) chopped scallions

1 tablespoon chopped garlic

1 tablespoon minced thyme leaves

1 tablespoon herbes de Provence

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Kosher salt or coarse sea salt

Rinse the leg of lamb under cold running water. Pat it thoroughly dry with paper towels and place it in a roasting pan.

In a mixing bowl, stir together the olive oil, lemon juice, vinegar, scallions, garlic, thyme, herbes de Provence and pepper. Pour this marinade over the lamb and turn the meat a few times to make sure it is thoroughly coated. Cover the pan and refrigerate for at least 2 hours or as long as overnight.

In a charcoal or gas grill, prepare a fire for indirect-heat cooking, with the coals or flames under the perimeter or one side of the cooking grid. While the fire heats, remove the meat from the refrigerator and the marinade, transferring it to a tray or platter. When the fire is hot, season the meat all over with salt.

Place the meat directly over the heat and sear it well, about 15 minutes per side. Move the meat over the cooler part of the fire bed, cover the grill, and continue cooking until the lamb is done medium, 45 minutes to 1 hour depending on the size and thickness of the meat.

Transfer the meat to a carving board, cover with aluminum foil, and let it rest for about 15 minutes. Meanwhile, rub the tomato halves generously with some olive oil, sprinkle them with salt and pepper, and grill them directly over the heat until tender and nicely browned, 3 to 4 minutes per side.

To serve, use a sharp knife to cut the meat across the grain and at a slight angle into slices about 1/4 inch (6 mm) thick. Accompany the carved lamb with the grilled tomato halves.

(Chef Wolfgang Puck’s new TV series, “Wolfgang Puck’s Cooking Class,” airs Sundays and Wednesdays on the Food Network. Write Wolfgang Puck in care of Tribune Media Services Inc., 2225 Kenmore Ave., Suite 114, Buffalo, NY. 14207.)



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