Greek style grilled leg of lamb

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OK I remembered the quote wrong. I read “Report to Greco” many years ago, the fictionalized autobiography of Nikos Kazantzakis (“Zorba the Greek,” “Last Temptation of Christ”). Here’s the quote as I recalled it:

“Grandfather, how can you eat the little lambs, frolicking in the fields, that God made?” Grandfather answered, “Because, my boy, that same God made the lamb taste so good!”
Here’s the actual quote:

“Grandfather, don’t you hate to kill the little pigs, don't you feel sorry when we eat them?” “I do, my boy, God knows I do,” he answered, bursting into laughter, “But they taste so good, the little rascals!”
Close, but no bacon. Though I mixed up my animals, I do like my twist on Grandfather’s reply, that has a mischievous God giving humans something that we can argue either way – to avoid, or indulge.

Wait, God does that a lot – showing a rascally sense of humor, on top of the omniscience, omnipotence and all that.

Regardless of what Grandfather actually said, there is no denying that the lamb God made does taste wickedly good. Greeks rejoice every Easter, breaking their Lenten fast with a spring lamb, turning on the spit, sizzling and aromatic. For a small crowd, I like to ask my butcher to remove the bone from a leg of lamb and butterfly it, so it’s like a giant thick steak. I then marinate in a secret blend of herbs and spices, so secret that I neglected to write it down.

Therefore I will have to find another recipe that looks sufficiently similar. Here’s a tasty-looking version from the amusingly named food blog “Peace and Love in the Kitchen” (we’ll overlook that the chef’s name is the decidedly un-Greek “Waverly”):

Marinated and Grilled Leg of Lamb – Greek Style


MARINADE:
• 1⁄3 cup extra virgin olive oil
• 1⁄3 cup fresh lemon juice
• 1 Tbsp fresh lemon zest
• 1⁄4 cup dried Greek or Mediterranean oregano or 1⁄2 cup fresh
• 6 cloves garlic, chopped
• 1 tsp salt
• 1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
• 1 (31⁄2-41⁄2 lb) leg of lamb, boneless and butterflied

1. MARINATE: In a sealable plastic bag, combine all of the ingredients for the marinade. Add lamb and seal bag, pressing out the air. Turn bag to coat lamb, then put bag in a shallow pan in the refrigerator. Turn bag occasionally and marinate 24-48 hours.

2. GRILL: Bring lamb to room temperature, about 1 hour. Remove lamb from marinade.  Leaving bits of garlic and herbs stuck to the meat is good. If you have them, run 3-4 metal skewers through the meat length-wise to keep it flat as it cooks. Don’t worry if you don’t have any. Place meat on a lightly oiled grill rack and grill over MEDIUM HOT coals, turning often, for 20-30 minutes. At its thickest point, a thermometer should register 120-130 degrees.

Note: to broil, simply place lamb 4-5 inches from the heating element and broil 6-12 minutes without turning, depending on the size.

3. REST: Let lamb rest, covered loosely with foil for 10-15 minutes before slicing it accross the grain. Serve with grilled sliced eggplant, zucchini, and red pepper and couscous or Greek salad and crusty bread.

Waverly also has suggestions on what to do with “leftovers,” another giveaway that he is not Greek, along with his utter failure to include shots of cold ouzo for the grillmaster.

Ouzo — now didn’t Benjamin Franklin once say that classic Greek apertif was proof God loves us and wants us to be happy?

——

Nick Roumel is a principal with Nacht, Roumel, Salvatore, Blanchard, and Walker PC, a firm in Ann Arbor specializing in employment and civil rights litigation. He also has many years of varied restaurant and catering experience, has taught Greek cooking classes, and writes a food/restaurant column for “Current” magazine in Ann Arbor. He occasionally updates his blog at http://mayitpleasethepalate.blogspot.com/.

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