Melissa Clark’s grilled leg of lamb has a luscious Provençial take that you won’t forget. Anchovies, garlic, and fennel take it from good to c’est magnifique!
Melissa Clark’s storehouse of published recipes includes thousands, and there are more where those came from. In her cookbook Dinner in French: My Recipes by Way of France: A Cookbook, her take on butterflied leg of lamb has a luscious Provençal accent—garlic anchovies and fennel. What’s also less common about this recipe is that she doesn’t marinate the boneless lamb in a wine and olive oil mixture but creates a tangy, savory spice paste that’s slathered on, marinated and seared to provide a deeply flavorful edge for the meat.–Jenny Latreille
WHAT TEMPERATURE SHOULD MY COOKED LAMB BET?
Don’t know your desired final temperature for cooking lamb? Figure rare happens at 130°F (54°C) to 135°F (57°C), medium-rare 135°F (57°C) to 140°F (60°C), and medium about 145°F (63°C). We don’t recommend cooking lamb past medium—you’ll just end up with a dried out, chewy disappointment.
Here’s an extra tip from our very own David Leite—make sure that your meat thermometer is accurate. You can do this by bringing water to a boil and inserting the thermometer. It should read 212° on the nose. If not, turn the small nut underneath to adjust it or, if that doesn’t work, you’ll need to buy another.
Grilled Leg of Lamb
- 1 1/2 tablespoons fennel seeds
- 1 tablespoon cumin seeds
- 1 tablespoon coriander seeds
- 2 tablespoons minced fresh fennel fronds or fresh basil leaves (or a combination)
- 5 garlic cloves peeled and finely grated or minced
- 4 oil-packed anchovy fillets minced, or 2 teaspoons anchovy paste
- 1 tablespoon finely grated lemon zest (from 1 to 2 lemons)
- 1 tablespoon fine sea salt
- 1/2 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1 to 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil plus more as needed
- 1 (5 1/2- to 6-pound) boneless leg of lamb butterflied, well-trimmed of fat
- Mustard for serving (optional)
- In a medium dry skillet over medium heat, combine the fennel, cumin, and coriander seeds and toast until fragrant, 2 to 3 minutes.
- Add the seeds to a mortar and pestle. Pound until the seeds start to break down but aren’t pulverized (or use the flat of a knife to crush the seeds).
- In a large bowl, combine the crushed toasted seeds with the fennel fronds, garlic, anchovies or anchovy paste, lemon zest, salt, and pepper. Drizzle in as much oil as needed to make a paste and then rub the paste all over the lamb.
- Cover the lamb with plastic wrap (or stuff it into a large resealable plastic bag) and let it marinate in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours or as long as overnight.
- When you’re ready to cook, heat an outdoor grill to high (or heat a broiler with the rack set 3 inches [8 cm] below the heat source).
- Grill or broil the lamb until it reaches your desired doneness, 7 to 14 minutes per side. For medium-rare lamb, you’re looking for an internal temperature of 125°F (52°C) on a meat thermometer, which will climb to 130°F (54°C) or 135°F (57°C) before you slice it.
☞TESTER TIP: If your lamb is thicker on one side, you may need to cut off the thinner portion partway through the cook time and let it rest while the thicker portion finishes cooking.
- Let the lamb rest (it will continue to cook), loosely covered with foil, for at least 10 minutes before slicing it. Serve the mustard alongside, if desired.
Recipe Testers’ Reviews
A boneless lamb leg of 5-1/2 to 6 pounds is a rare thing around here. So, I only did half the recipe with a 3-3/4-pound boneless leg. That’s still enough for 4 to 6 people, depending on how much you enjoy lamb. The finished grilled leg of lamb is well seasoned and grilled up beautifully. Since it was butterflied, the doneness of the meat was consistent throughout the roast.
I chose sides of turnips in rosemary brown butter and a basic polenta. I paired this with a red and a white but the white seemed a better choice in this instance. It was an off-dry, fruity varietal (Riesling and Gewürztraminer) from a local winery and allowed the flavors on the plate to really come through!
Bring on the TC!
While there may not be anything groundbreaking about this recipe for grilled leg of lamb, its combination of whole fennel, cumin, AND coriander is brilliant, and the toasting of the seeds before grinding is absolutely key. In conjunction with the more common lamb partners of lemon, garlic, and anchovy, the spices elevate the marinade to something special. So much flavor for such little work! We loved the pungency of the anchovy, the brightness of the lemon, and the generous hit of garlic alongside the warm and exotic background spices.
No doubt this will become our standard lamb marinade from here on out. Any number of side sauces would complement this particular recipe, so we tried an herby chimichurri alongside some mustard and both were quite good. (Next time I might make more of a mustard sauce so that the meat isn’t overpowered by the straight-up dollop of mustard.) We’re also looking forward to leftovers…lamb sandwiches on fresh, crusty rolls, maybe a little shaved red onion, roasted red pepper and a smidge of mayonnaise or garlic aioli? I’m in!
Originally published March 25, 2021