Although it is now well into fall, my senses are in a state of perpetual confusion due to Southern California’s lingering summer. I’m fortunate to live in a region where I can grill outdoors year-round. And although I know that fall is a time for heart-warming soups and stews, as well as pumpkin spice and all things gourd, I couldn’t help but grill up something delicious this past weekend. This was my first attempt at actually lighting the coals because my partner was not at home. I was trying to fight against the gender division of labor in which men grill and women bake. Sadly, there is some truth to this stereotype. In this undertaking, I realized that there is much that I have to learn about how to start a fire, from the kindling to the kerosene to the specific formation that the coals have to be in for them to properly light. Sadly, I was unable to start the grill, so I opted for another excellent option for a steak: pan-searing. In the case of steaks, searing on a grill pan can be a wonderful substitute for barbecuing on a grill.
A perfectly seared steak with its full body of flavor can be the star of a sandwich or platter surrounded by caramelized roasted vegetables. Although beef is well loved by Americans, lamb meat, its “brother from another mother”, can also steal the show. When seasoned and marinated properly, the gaminess of lamb becomes a subtle undertone that provides a more nuanced and interesting layer of flavor. Growing up in a Chinese/Vietnamese family, what little lamb I did eat was often unmasked in its gaminess. The lamb was boldly and unabashedly naked in all its natural goodness as my family opted to prepare lamb in stews that were lightly imbued with rice wine and spices. While I found this preparation very enjoyable in allowing the flavor of the lamb to come through, I recognize that lamb is an acquired taste. For those whose palates are much more sensitive to the pungency of lamb, it is my hope that this marinade will become the Trojan horse that allows lamb to penetrate your culinary defenses and allow for an invasion of your taste buds. I knew that this recipe was special when my little sister, who had previously turned her nose to lamb, kept eating more and more of this dish. When I asked her what she thought of the lamb, she replied “What lamb? Oh, you mean the steak? It’s delicious!”
Marinade overnight for best results. Depending on the thickness of your lamb steak, it should be seared 3-5 minutes on each side on medium high heat. I prefer my steaks to be cooked to medium. If upon cutting you realize that your steak is undercooked, you can always place it in the oven/toaster oven at 350 degrees to cook to its desired level of doneness. The steak should be allowed to rest for at least 5 minutes before slicing against the grain. Always let your steaks rest before cutting into them. Patience is a virtue that pays off 100% in the world of gastronomy. I have been very upset by Korean BBQ restaurants where servers insist on cooking and cutting my steak for me before it is properly rested. The result? Dry, rubbery pieces of meat that remind you of the Sahara. The moral of the story: rest your meat and your mouth and stomach will be happy. I served this lamb with a cucumber mint yogurt sauce in some warm pita bread.
1/2 lb lamb leg steak
2 cloves garlic
2 tsp thyme
1 tsp rosemary
3 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
- Coarsely chop garlic, thyme, and rosemary and mix with 2 tbsp olive oil.
- Season lamb steak with salt and pepper, then place into a freezer bag
- Place herb oil mixture into the freezer bag and use to coat lamb steak.
- Allow to marinate for at least an hour. Marinade overnight for best results.
- Heat a skillet on medium high and drizzle with the remaining 1 tbsp olive oil. Sear on both sides, 3-5 minutes each side for medium-cooked steak, depending on the thickness of the steak.
- When lamb steak is ready, take out of the pan and allow to cool for 5 minutes.
- Slice against the grain of the meat and enjoy!