Buttermilk Leg of Lamb from 'Salted' by Mark Bitterman, Holiday Recipes Part 7

Holidays and Lamb, perfect together, so as a teaser for my upcoming interview with Mark Bitterman, author of Salted (Ten Speed Press), I decided to serve you one of the book's recipes.


Buttermilk Leg of Lamb with the meadow Sel Gris

Serves 10 to 12



1 1/2 cups buttermilk

Juice of 1 lemon

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

8 cloves garlic, minced

2 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme leaves

2 tablespoons crushed black cardamom seeds

1 teaspoon ground black pepper

4 three-finger pinches The Meadow Sel Gris

1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes


1 boneless leg of lamb (about 4 pounds), butt end,

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

4 to 6 three-finger pinches The Meadow Sel Gris or other sel gris, plus more for serving

2 teaspoons cracked good-quality peppercorns, preferably Parameswaran’s



Mix the ingredients for the marinade in a large (gallon-size or larger) zipper-lock or other food-grade plastic bag. If the butterflied meat was trussed or wrapped in a butcher’s net, pull off the string, rinse it, and set it aside. Put the lamb in the bag and unfold the butterflied meat so that it all comes in contact with marinade; massage the marinade into the meat briefly. Close the zipper almost all the way, squeeze out as much of the air as you can without letting any marinade seep from the opening, and zip the bag the rest of the way. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours, massaging the bag once or twice in the meantime to circulate the marinade, or you can let it chill for the rest of the day. Because marinades do not permeate meat fibers deeply, marinating for more time does little to add more flavor. Settle on a timing that fits your schedule.

            Light the grill for medium-high indirect heat (about 425°F), building your fire or turning on the burners only on one side of the grill.

            Remove the lamb from the marinade. Using kitchen string (or the string you set aside earlier), truss the meat together to resemble the leg before it was butterflied: compact and thick. Pat off any excess marinade from the surface, as moisture on the surface of the meat will inhibit its ability to brown on the grill. Coat the meat with the olive oil and season it with the salt and pepper.

            Brush the grill grate thoroughly with a wire brush to clean it, and coat it lightly with oil.

Put the lamb on the grill right over the heat and brown on both sides, about 5 minutes per side. If the fire should flare up, cover the grill to make the flames subside. Move the browned lamb away from direct heat, cover the grill, and cook until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the meat registers about 135°F for medium-rare, about 30 minutes.

            Remove the lamb to a large serving platter; set aside to rest for 10 minutes.

            Cut off the string and slice the lamb about 1/4 inch thick. Arrange the slices on a serving platter and sprinkle them with just enough sel gris to show off the dish. Serve with more salt mounded on a small dish for the table. Leaving the meat mostly unsalted gives your guests the pleasure of sprinkling it with moist chunks of sel gris with every juicy bite.

Roasting option: If winter weather has you cooking indoors, this lamb recipe also makes a great roast. Preheat the oven to 450°F before removing the lamb from the marinade. Truss the meat as for the grill, and place on an oven rack in a baking pan. Roast for 15 minutes, then reduce the heat to 325°F and cook until the meat’s internal temperature reaches 135°F for medium-rare, about 45 minutes. Remove the roast from the oven and transfer it to a platter or cutting board to rest for 10 minutes. While the meat is resting, place the roasting pan over medium-high heat and pour in 1/2 cup of dry white wine or dry vermouth, scraping the pan with a wooden spoon to deglaze. Slice the meat and arrange it on a serving platter, drizzle the pan sauce over the top, sprinkle with a little salt, and serve with more salt at the table.

“Reprinted with permission from Salted: A Manifesto on the World’s Most Essential Mineral, with Recipes by Mark Bitterman, copyright © 2010. Published by Ten Speed Press, a division of Random House, Inc.”   Photo credit: Jennifer Martiné© 2010

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