We’re pretty picky when it comes to lamb; in order for us to enjoy it, it needs to be cooked to just the right temperature and it needs to be prepared with just the right flavors. But that didn’t stop us from ditching the traditional preparations and experimenting with a hoppy beer butter for a beautiful boneless leg of lamb we picked up from our butcher last week.
The essential oils in hops will often impart flavors of citrus and pine in an IPA so we figured that would make it a perfect companion for a hunk of smoked lamb. We were right. Lamb has a nice gamey flavor that stands up really well to the flavors in a bold IPA, and it’s no secret that rosemary and citrus get along great with lamb. We featured the beer in a citrus-rosemary butter by adding it at the last minute. You have to be careful not to reduce an IPA down too much or the bitterness will become much more concentrated and overpower the dish. We do two things in this recipe to make sure that doesn’t happen: add the beer at the end and add honey along with sweet mandarin juice to balance out any bitterness the hops will bring to the dish.
We chose the Pinedrops IPA from Deschutes Brewery because it showcases the bold piney, almost rosemary-like hop profile that we wanted in the dish. Not only does it work great in the recipe but it is a stellar beer to drink alongside the finished lamb.
IPA and Butter-Basted Lamb
3 to 5-pound butterflied boneless leg of lamb
2 tablespoons mustard
¼ cup olive oil
1 ½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
Zest of one mandarin orange
1 teaspoon garlic powder
For the butter:
1 stick butter
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 tablespoon minced rosemary
2 tablespoons honey
Zest of 1 mandarin orange
2 tablespoons mandarin orange juice
2 tablespoons IPA
Cover the lamb leg with the mustard, olive oil, salt, pepper, orange zest and garlic powder. Allow it to sit for an hour at room temperature before cooking. Prepare your grill or smoker to cook at 375ºF. When it’s ready, cook the lamb for one hour.
While the lamb is cooking, prepare the IPA-citrus-rosemary butter. Melt the butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Add the garlic and cook for about 30 seconds until it becomes aromatic. Add the rosemary, honey, orange zest and juice. Stir to incorporate. Add the beer and immediately remove from the heat.
Baste the lamb with the butter every 10 minutes for the remaining cook time until the lamb reaches an internal temperature of 130ºF (for medium-rare). Remove the lamb from the grill, baste it one last time and cover it with foil. Allow it to cool for about 30 minutes. Slice and enjoy!