Date night at our house means Mama and Daddy go out to dinner. And when Mama and Daddy go out to dinner, Mama has just one question.
Duck or lamb?
For years, I’ve scoured menus to find those two entrees. If one is on the menu, it’s my default dinner. If — lucky me — both grace the page, it’s a flip of the coin to see what ends up on my plate.
I gravitate toward these dishes because I rarely cook them (never, in the case of duck). Both are expensive. Neither is a regular on my grocery list. Both have a less-than-pristine reputation (lamb is fatty; duck’s hard to cook).
But Saturday, I found a beautiful butterflied leg of lamb at Balducci’s meat counter. My husband and I decided to splurge.
Cooks may think lamb is a fat bomb but in truth, its leaner cuts (the loin, the shank and the leg) have about the same calories and fat as beef and pork.(See http://www.oprah.com/health/Is-It-Healthy-to-Eat-Lamb). Lamb also has less marbling than beef, making it leaner if trimmed well.
I wouldn’t serve it to my family every night. While a 4-ounce serving is rich in protein, B-complex vitamins and niacin, it also eats up 50 percent of the recommended daily allowance for unsaturated fat and 30 percent of the RDA for cholesterol.
But as a special treat? Absolutely … particularly if I plan to roast the meat, which reduces its fat content further.
The lamb we bought Saturday was beautifully butchered and ready for whatever cooking method I wanted to use. I decided to marinate it overnight in Greek-inspired flavorings (lots of rosemary, oregano, dill and garlic), then stuff it with some garden chard I’d frozen last July. Once in the oven, it took less than an hour to roast to a succulent, reddish-pink rare. We ate thick slices alongside baked potatoes and radicchio salad.
It was so popular, I may put it into my weekend-dinner rotation. And who knows? Next time we feel like a splurge, I may roast a duck!
Chard-Stuffed Leg Of Lamb
You can make this as long or short a process as you want. I marinated the butterflied leg of lamb overnight, but just an hour in the spices will give it a lovely flavor. True, this dish isn’t for the vegetarians or vegans among us, but the stuffing would be delicious mixed with eggs or pasta.
Combine 2 tablespoons roughly chopped garlic with 1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh oregano, 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh rosemary and 1 teaspoon minced fresh dill. Add the zest of 1 lemon (about 1 1/2 teaspoons), 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice and 2 tablespoons olive oil. Season with 1 teaspoon kosher salt and 1/2 teaspoon coarsely ground pepper.
When ready to finish the dish, thaw 8-10 ounces of frozen spinach or chard. Squeeze all the water out of the greens, and roughly chop them.
Finely chop 1 onion and 1 celery or fennel stalk. Heat a saute pan over medium-low heat and slick with 1 tablespoon olive oil. Add the onion and celery or fennel, plus salt and pepper, and saute until translucent. Add 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard, the spinach or chard, and 1/2 cup Panko breadcrumbs. Mix well and cool.
Remove the lamb from its marinade. Lay it flat on a work surface and spoon the filling on top, leaving a 1/2-inch border. (You’ll have extra filling; save it for another use.) Fold the lamb in half, and tie it tightly with kitchen string, at about 1-inch intervals.
Place on a rack in a roasting pan, and stick into a 425-degree oven for 15 minutes. After the 15 minutes have passed, turn the oven temperature down to 350 degrees. Roast for another 35 minutes, or until the lamb reads 125-130 degrees on an instant-read thermometer for rare. If you like your meat more well-done, roast for an additional 10-15 minutes, until the thermometer reads 140-145 degrees.
Remove from oven and let meat rest 15 minutes. Carve into thick slices and serve.