Butterflied leg of lamb is one of the best cuts of meat to serve when throwing an impromptu party. Just rub it with some olive oil, garlic, and salt, and grill it over medium-high heat (or you can broil it). It’s so thin that it won’t take more than 15 minutes per side. If you leave the thickest parts rare to medium-rare, the thinner parts will be cooked a bit more, giving you meat for every preference. After you take the lamb off the heat, just let it rest for 5 minutes before you thinly slice it across the grain. You can eat it hot or at room temperature or even cold, and it’s great alongside all kinds of salads.
For a leg of lamb that’s a little more impressive and boldly flavored, try this recipe. I’ve taken cues from Moroccan spices and flavors to make a rub for the meat and a sticky date-sweetened sauce.
Potluck Prep: The date barbecue sauce can be kept in an airtight container and refrigerated for up to 3 days. If you’re not hosting, either ask to use the host’s grill or grill the meat at home without the sauce. After the lamb cools, cut it crosswise into large chunks that can be easily wrapped in plastic and refrigerate for a few hours or overnight. When you get to the potluck, slice the meat just before serving, putting the sauce and relish on the side.
- In a small skillet, toast the coriander and the cumin, caraway, and fennel seeds until fragrant,1 to 2 minutes. Let cool, and then finely grind the seeds to a powder in a spice grinder. Transfer to a small bowl. Add the paprika, cinnamon, and 1 teaspoon pepper. Set aside 3 tablespoons of the spice mixture for the sauce, then stir 1½ teaspoons of salt and ¼ cup of the olive oil into the remaining spice mixture.
- Using a small, sharp knife, make ½-inch-deep slits all over the lamb. Press the garlic slices into the slits. Coat the lamb with the spiced oil, making sure to rub it into the slits. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 6 hours or up to 24 hours.
- Meanwhile, in a medium saucepan, heat the remaining ¼ cup olive oil over medium-low heat. Add the onion and minced garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 10 minutes. Add the reserved 3 tablespoons of the spice mixture and cook, stirring occasionally, until fragrant, about 4 minutes. Add the tomato paste and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Add the beef broth, honey, saffron water, and cayenne, then increase the heat to high and cook until the sauce is slightly thickened, about 8 minutes. Add the minced dates, reduce the heat to low, and simmer, stirring occasionally, until they break down and the sauce is thick and glossy, about 15 minutes. Remove from the heat. Stir in the lemon juice and season the sauce with salt, pepper, and more lemon juice. Reserve ½ cup of the date barbecue sauce for glazing the lamb.
- Light a grill or preheat the broiler and arrange the rack about 4 inches from the heat. Lightly season the lamb with salt and pepper. Grill over moderate heat, turning once, until the lamb is nicely charred all over and an instant-read thermometer inserted in the thickest part of the leg registers 125°F for medium-rare, about 15 minutes per side. During the last 3 minutes of grilling, brush the ½ cup date barbecue sauce all over the lamb. Transfer the grilled lamb to a carving board and let rest for 5 to 10 minutes.
- In a small bowl, toss the olives with the mint and cilantro. Slice the lamb across the grain and serve with the remaining date barbecue sauce and the olive relish.
Excerpted from “Modern Potluck: Beautiful Food to Share” by Kristin Donnelly, copyright © 2016, published by Clarkson Potter, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC. Photography copyright © 2016 by Yossy Arefi.
Kristin Donnelly is a Brooklyn-based food and wine writer. Her work has appeared in Food & Wine, Prevention, EveryDay With Rachael Ray, Women’s Health and Cherry Bombe magazines. She is the author of the cookbook The Modern Potluck.