It’s turning to dark. The fog is rolling in off the New River, ironically and un-creatively given so soft of a name by some assuming geologist. I’m a geologist, so I can pick on us with no reservation. Seriously, I think a river that was honored by the Native Americans, unique in it’s flow and geology, home to a thriving habitat all its own and occupying a place in American history could be given a more imaginative name. Tonight, though, is more exciting than listening to me rave about the geology of our area, which is indeed fascinating. There is a cave system only a few hundred yards from my house which is largely unexplored. There is a bizarre and slightly bewildering diversity of karst terrain and alluvial (river) deposits in my front yard, separated by only a few yards from one another. These river deposits in my yard contain huge smoth alluvial stones, perfect for a fire pit, that tells a story much more ancient than human history.
Tonight is about lamb. Laura has found a recipe for our remaining leg of lamb left from when our butcher closed shop. I only wish that I had this web site then, for we could have at least launched a mission to save his business. A foodie without a butcher is a sad person indeed. But, we’ve been spared. Cavalier Farms, Shadowchase Farms and Virginia Tech have turned out to be great sources of local, organic, pasture raised and in the case of Shadowchase, dry aged beef, pork and lamb.
Ah, the lamb. I meet so many people who are squeamish about lamb and for the life of me I do not understand why. It’s sweet, slightly gamey and absolutely wonderful. We have made it a personal mission to invite people to our house to eat lamb – and so far, perhaps due to the wonderful manners of southern people, we have yet to have anyone not eat lamb. Children amble about sucking on lamb shanks, adults are served cuts of leg and everyone gushes over wonderful grilled lamb short ribs. Marinated with orange and citrus, slow cooked over a grill and finished on high heat, I don’t know how anyone can not love it.
Tonight is a test. It has poured rain all day and it is cold. Thirty-four degrees. I wish it would just snow but the sky refuses to grant me the two degrees required. I let the fire go out last night and its cold inside, too. The wood stove is groaning and it is only a matter of time before the white oak inside catches the cold outside and renders it impotent. Laura will be warm and happy and I am allowing the leg of lamb, the last one from our butcher, which has been marinating in citrus, rosemary and wine, come to room temperature. This is a work of art, this leg of lamb. Carefully harvested from a local farm, dry aged and then flash frozen, it has been in my freezer for almost a year. Now, on this day, it is time. I remind myself, grilling has absolutely nothing to do with the weather.
1/2 Cup of Grapefruit Juice
4 Clementimes, Halved
1 cup of dry white wine
3-8 garlic cloves (Increase if you think there is a high vampire risk.)
Salt & Pepper
1/4 Cup of Olive Oil
Place all the ingredients in your blender and blend until smooth. Smother your leg of lamb in it, place in a large ziplock bag and refrigerate for 12-36 hours. The citrus will actually start to “cook” the lamb, making it incredibly moist and tender.
Heat your grill to medium-high (about 450 degrees). I’ve found that one full chimney starter allowed to turn white is perfect to start this recipe. Drain excess marinade into a cast iron skillet large enough to accomadate the lamb. Place the lamb on the “cold” side of the grill for about 30 minutes. In the meantime, add a handful of baby carrots, a can of black beans and cilantro to taste to the skillet. Placed the skillet over the hot side of the grill and bring to a full simmer. Place the leg in the skillet for about 20 minutes, then remove and sear to form a crust. Check the temperature, remove when it is about 135 degrees for medium rare and allow to stand for twenty minutes.
Oh, a headlamp is essential for grilling in the dark while it’s raining. Shoes help too.
Recipe is modified from “Molto Batali” by Mario Batali.