Marinated Lamb Kebabs with Onions, Peppers and Nectarines
The American Lamb Board, seeking to shore up demand which, according to their market reports, has fallen off significantly over the last two years, has enlisted a top-flight PR firm to spread the word. Apparently getting bloggers to write about lamb is part of their strategy so they Fedexed me a nice gift box containing a boned leg of lamb on ice, bags of dried herbs, some skewers and a leaflet with recipes.
Since I never heard of the American Lamb Board I asked my friend Farmgirl Susan, a bonafide sheep farmer and the creator of the wildly popular blog Farmgirl Fare, if she could tell me something about the organization. She said:
""I'm embarrassed to admit that I don't know anything about them. We're not currently members of the Sheep Society or whatever those groups are called. Usually they're aimed at larger producers and/or people who don't know the words 'organic' or 'natural.'
"That said, I am certainly in favor of anything that helps to not only get more people eating lamb, but lets them know that their lamb doesn't have to come all the way from Australia or New Zealand (or Iceland, which is the place Whole Foods is touting their lamb is from now).
"But of course, naturally raised, grass-fed lamb that is hopefully locally produced is not as easy to come by--and it's going to cost more than the stuff at your average supermarket whether it's American or not. Unless it's marked otherwise, supermarket lamb will most likely come from animals fattened up quickly on grain in feedlots."
I get such offers of marketing swag every now and then and accept them with the warning that I may or may not write about the product, and that if I do write about it my comments may be positive or negative. Usually I don't write about the stuff that shows up (cookbooks, spice mixes, useless cheap kitchen gadgets, etc.) but I like lamb and so decided to cook it and blog about it.
A friend was throwing a graduation party so I offered to bring lamb kebabs. Since it was a party I spent a little time on design of the kebabs and ended up with an appropriately festive look: red pearl onions at each end of the skewers, wrapped in pepper slices (green at one end, red the other), flanking two chunks of marinated lamb separated by a slice of mango apricot. The vegetables were blanched before being marinated since they need a longer time to cook than the meat they
The kebabs were served with triangles of pita bread and most guests washed them down with beer or wine. The result was generally acclaimed by the 30+ guests at the party. For my taste the marinade obscured the flavor of the lamb (I like a chop, simply grilled with rosemary and garlic), but since the dish was such a crowd-pleaser I can certainly recommend it.
By the way, if you want to see what some of your other favorite food bloggers have been doing with the American Lamb Board goodie bag, click the links below:
Marinated Lamb Kebabs with Onions, Peppers and Nectarines
(adapted from a recipe by Najmeih Batmanglij)
1 lb lean lamb leg meat (weight after trimming)
1 onion, sliced
6 cloves garlic, sliced
1-1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper, ground
1/2 C lime juice
juice of 1/2 lemon
1/4 tsp ground saffron threads, dissolved in 2 T hot water
2 tsp cumin seeds
2 tsp coriander seeds
2 tsp oregano
6 T minced fresh rosemary
8 slices sweet red pepper (1-1/2" wide)
8 slices sweet green pepper (1-1/2" wide)
1 firm mango nectarine, cut in 8 wedges
16 red pearl onions
1 T olive oil
1 tsp hot sauce
2 T butter
Carefully trim fat and all connective tissue from the lamb and cut in 3/4 0z cubes (about 1-1/4"). Mix the onion, 2/3 of the garlic, 1 tsp salt, the black pepper, 4 tablespoons of the rosemary, the saffron and the lime juice. Toast the coriander and cumin seeds in a dry skillet over high heat until they darken slightly, then grind and add to the lime juice mixture. Pour over the lamb cubes and mix well. Cover and marinate, refrigerated, for 24 - 72 hours, turning now and then.
Blanch the pepper slices in boiling salted water for 30 seconds. Then, while hot, toss with the remaining garlic slices, the remaining rosemary, remaining 1/4 tsp salt, the oregano, lemon juice and olive oil. Blanch the onions in the salted water, then plunge in cold water. After this treatment the skins will slip off easily. Sauté the peeled onions, stirring, for about 3 minutes in the butter over medium high heat. Then add water to cover, a pinch of salt and some pepper and boil gently for about 8 minutes. Drain the onions and then toss them with the peppers. Marinate the vegetables until you are ready to assemble the kebabs.
To assemble, drain and reserve the marinade from the meat. Wrap an onion in one of the pepper slices and thread it on a skewer, followed by a chunk of meat, a slice of apricot, another chunk of meat and then another onion wrapped in a pepper slice of the opposite color. Repeat for remaining meat and vegetables. Strain the marinade and emulsify in a blender for basting.
Place the kebabs on the grill over a medium hot charcoal or gas fire, baste and cook for six minutes. Then turn them, baste again and grill six minutes more. Sprinkle with coarse salt, then tent under foil for 5 - 10 minutes before serving.
1. Trimming. It's very important to remove all the connective tissue, as this can be tough to the point of inedibility. By the time you're done doing this and finished trimming excess fat you'll have a pile of little pieces of meat, too small for kebabs. If you are doing a large quantity and you accumulate 12 0z or so of these trimmings it becomes worth it to grind them (with some of the fat trimmings) for use in sausage or meatballs (I'll be posting in a few days a very nice lamb meatball dish I made from my trimmings).
2. Quantity. The boned leg I received weighed 4 lb 12 oz out of the package. After trimming I had 3 lb 6 oz of kebab cubes - 60 pieces, enough for 30 kebabs. I also had 10 oz of solid fat which I froze for some future unknown use and 12 oz of lean trim as described in Note 1.
3. Grill timing. Overcooked lamb is no treat, so a quick stay on the grill is all that's needed. However, if you decide to cut larger pieces, adjust accordingly. The lamb cooks a bit more during the foil-tented rest.
4. Skewers. If you use bamboo skewers, as I usually do, soak them in water for at least half an hour just before assembling the kebabs. This keeps them from burning while on the fire, a really annoying development if you let it happen.
5. Make ahead. Obviously since the lamb needs to marinate so you will be prepping this ahead of time. The vegetables don't really need such a long time to marinate so they can be made later. I did the lamb on Thursday and then the vegetables on Saturday for a Sunday service.