This recipe features a leg of lamb roasted on a tripod over an outdoor fire pit. The fire pit can be easily constructed. Ideally, the pit will be one to two feet deep with earth or other sides to keep in the heat. Build a large fire of hardwood and charcoal. The smoke from fruit wood, such as apple or cherry, will add additional flavor. Continue feeding the fire for about three hours before cooking, so that you develop a deep bed of hot, glowing embers. The leg should be basted about every 15 minutes throughout the cooking process. The surface should not be allowed to burn while it develops a consistently dark, rich glaze. Alternately, the lamb leg can be slowly roasted in the oven.
The Buddha’s hand used in this recipe is a type of citron. It has a sweet, lemon blossom aroma and has no juice or pulp. The pith is not bitter, so the fruit can be zested or used in its entirety.
Tripod-Roasted Lamb Leg
by Chef Ben Spangler
1 shallot, minced
1 ounce tarragon, chopped
1 ounce parsley, chopped
3 Thai chili peppers, sliced
2 tablespoons cayenne pepper
1 tablespoon oregano
zest from 1 Buddha’s hand citron or zest from 3 lemons
2 ounces red wine vinegar
1 acorn or other squash
1½ cups chestnuts
1 head garlic (optional)
4 sprigs rosemary, chopped
1 small bunch thyme
1 whole leg of lamb with shank
¼ cup ricotta cheese
1 ounce micro greens
Salt and pepper
- For the brine: In one cup add 4 Tbsp salt, minced shallot, red wine vinegar, chopped tarragon, parsley, Thai chilis, 1 Tbsp cayenne, 1 Tbsp oregano, zest of one Buddha’s “finger” or three lemons and pour enough water to fill to the brim.
- Slice acorn squash ¼″ thick. Score each chestnut without cutting into the flesh.
- Shell garlic and chop into small chunks.
- Roughly chop the rosemary and thyme.
- Make shallow diagonal slits across the leg of lamb, and then slit in the other direction in a crosshatch pattern.
- Rub generously with salt and pepper.
- Insert garlic cloves (optional), rosemary, and thyme sprigs into slits.
- Lightly dust roast with oregano and cayenne pepper.
- Use a large meat hook to pierce through the top half of the shankbone and two muscles to ensure a strong hold.
Roasting on the Tripod:
- Hang the roast on the tripod over the fire.
- Make certain coal or wood is evenly distributed and not too hot, as leg needs to roast slowly.
- Add coals as necessary.
- Spatter the roast with brine every 20 minutes, a few teaspoonfuls at a time on all sides.
- Rotate the roast, if possible.
- Roast the chestnuts until they crack open (about 15-20 minutes), while turning to prevent burning.
- Pan-roast slices of acorn squash on low heat until cooked through. Reserve.
- When lamb leg reaches 120-130⁰F in the center of the muscle, remove from heat.
Roasting in the oven:
If using an oven, cover the roast with foil and roast at a low temperature. At the end, turn the oven to high for 10 minutes to brown and crisp the surface of the lamb.
Finishing and Serving:
- Serve straight from the fire. The outside of the leg will be more well done than the inside. Be sure to use a meat thermometer to determine that the meat is cooked to the desired level of doneness.
- Flash-heat squash slices in a hot pan before plating.
- Arrange squash on plates and season with oil, salt and pepper.
- Garnish with ricotta cheese, micro greens, red wine vinegar, zested Buddha’s hand and roasted chestnuts.
- Thinly slice lamb.
- Drizzle each serving with ½ teaspoon of brine.