Monday was Memorial Day, the official start of the grilling season, blah, blah, blah. Naturally, food writers across the land responded in kind. You couldn't open a newspaper, thumb through a magazine, or log onto a food-related Website last week without learning how to grill a hamburger or skewer zucchini.
Well, here at D.C. Foodies, we know that grilling isn't a seasonal pursuit. That's why we bring you the grilling knowledge all year long.
As long as we have fire, we will grill.
The warmer weather did, however, give me the opportunity to break in my new backyard. The missus and I certainly enjoyed living on Capitol Hill, but our tiny apartment wasn't much for entertaining (though that never stopped us). I was lucky enough to have a small patio for my charcoal grill, but now I have land for my gas and charcoal equipment to roam. Hell yeah.
For my inaugural backyard soirée, I went big: leg of lamb on a spit, charred scallions and young garlic, homemade tzatziki, and mixed berry cobbler on the grill. To drink, I picked up a few six packs of Duck-Rabbit, one of North Carolina's many great breweries finally making their way into our area.
I was particularly excited about the lamb. It's one of my favorite meats and perfect for grilling. Consequently, it graced the grates of my old Weber many, many times, many, many ways: chops, steaks, kabobs and butterflied leg. Thanks to my new gas grill, I can now add rotisserie to the list.
Honestly, I don't know if there's a prettier sight than five pounds boneless leg of lamb slowly turning and sweating on a grill. (Decadent tip: Rather than loose all that luscious lamb fat, stick a pan of potatoes underneath the meat. Roasted potatoes in lamb fat -- come on people, what more can I do for you?)
As for the vegetables, I snagged a couple bunches of young garlic. They're in season and tasted great when I grilled them with the smoked pork chops a couple weeks back. I also grabbed few bundles of green onions.
By the way, if you're not grilling green onions, start. The heat cools the onion's bite, leaving you with a mild, sweet treat. Add a little salt, chunky black pepper and olive oil, and your day is going right. I find an excuse to throw on a few scallions nearly every time I light the grill.
The dessert, a berry cobbler, is a classic outdoor dish, as it can be done on a grill or campfire. Peaches also work here, but I'm not a fan and berries are in season. Just to be fancy (and because it's good), I finished the dessert with crème fraîche ice cream, and a drizzle of honey and balsamic vinegar.And then there was the beer. I was pretty psyched when I heard Duck-Rabbit found its way up here. I used to live in Chapel Hill and am a big fan of the North Carolina brewing scene. Duck-Rabbit is certainly one of the better beers produced in the Tar Heel state, but there are many more and a few better ones. Hopefully, breweries like Big Boss, French Broad and Carolina Brewing will follow Duck-Rabbit north.
For those of you going to Savor this week, swing by the Foothills table. You'll be glad you did (especially if they bring their Seeing Double IPA). The Winston-Salem brewery might be producing the best beer in North Carolina and some of the best brews in the country. And if you want to check out a couple other North Carolina beers, you can find Highland and Carolina Beer Company at Total Wine, and occasionally in Greg Jasgur's always surprising beer lineup at Birreria Paradiso. If you're looking for Duck-Rabbit, I found it on tap at Rustico and RFD, and in the bottle at Whole Foods and Galaxy Hut.
So as your friends and neighbors are getting the rust off their grills and grilling skills to burn a few hot dogs, bust out a fat lamb leg and show them that for a few of us, the grilling season never ends.
Rotisserie lamb, grilled garlic and onions, and berry cobbler
(Makes 8 servings)
For the lamb and vegetables
1 5 lb. lamb leg, butterflied and tied
2 bundles of spring onions (about 8 onions a bundle)
2 bundles of young garlic (about 8 garlic stalks a bundle)
1 cup olive oil
1/2 cup of fresh rosemary
1/4 cup of tarragon
3 tbs. oregano
1 clove of garlic, minced
Kosher salt and cracked black pepper to taste
For the tzatziki
1 16 oz container of Greek yogurt, plain
1/2 English cucumber, seeded and diced
1 lemon, zested and juiced
4 tbs. of dill
1 garlic clove, minced finely
Kosher salt to taste
For the berry cobbler
4 pints of blueberries
2 pints of raspberries
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup flour
1 tsp. lemon zest
2 tbs. lemon juice
3 biscotti cookies (1/2 cup)
1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup brown sugar
Pinch of salt
6 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into 1-inch pieces
The night before, marinate the lamb and prepare the tzatziki. For the lamb, coat the meat in olive oil and cover with the tarragon, three quarters of the rosemary, and the pepper. Because salt will draw moisture out of the meat, don't add any until you put the lamb on the grill. Cover with plastic wrap and stick it in the refrigerator. For the tzatziki, combine the ingredients in a bowl and taste. Adjust the seasoning as necessary.
When you're ready to start grilling, pull the lamb out of the refrigerator so it can lose some of the chill and generously sprinkle with salt. Light the grill and skewer the lamb. Once the lamb has had 30 minutes to warm up, place the spit on the grill, start the rotisserie and close the lid. If you like your lamb rare, it'll need an hour and a half with the rotisserie burner set to about medium heat. For more well done, shoot for two hours and an internal temperature of about 170 degrees.
In a bowl, combine the remaining oil and rosemary with the garlic, oregano and pepper. Baste the lamb leg with this sauce every 15 minutes.
As the lamb cooks, prepare the cobbler. Place the berries in a large mixing bowl and add the sugar, flour, lemon zest, and lemon juice. Gently toss, making sure not to crush the berries. Carefully move the mixture into a cast iron pan -- or a baking pan you're comfortable using on the grill -- that's been oiled
For the topping, combine the biscotti, flour, brown sugar in a food processor. Pulse the mixture until it's reduced to a coarse powder. Add in the butter and the salt, and pulse again. Spoon this mixture on top of the berries.
If you're using the same grill the lamb is cooking on, you'll have to bake the cobbler while the lamb leg rests. If you have a couple grills at your disposal, go ahead and throw the cobbler on. Whether you're using gas or charcoal, you'll want to cook the cobbler with the lid down for 40 minutes using indirect heat.
When the lamb is done, remove it from the grill, but not the spit, and let it rest for 20 to 30 minutes under a piece of aluminum foil. As it rests, brush the garlic and onions with olive oil, season with salt and pepper and toss on the grill for about four minutes per side, or until they pick up a nice char. You can also toss on a couple pieces of flat bread to warm up.
When the cobbler is ready, the crumbly crust should be golden brown with the fruit bubbling through. Try to let it cool off -- trust me, it's hot -- before dishing it up with your favorite ice cream.