Unlike Thanksgiving, Christmas dinner was a little more adventuresome, but not by much. Those in attendance -- my parents and brother David's family -- all enjoy a good leg of lamb, especially one that's roasted over a fire.
GRILLED LEG OF LAMB WITH ROSEMARY, ROASTED PEARS, AND BLACK PEPPER POLENTA
Have your butcher butterfly the lamb for you. I added the juice from one lemon to the oil and garlic mixture.
1 head garlic, cloves removed and peeled
2 fresh rosemary sprig, needles stripped from stem, plus 8 sprig
Extra-virgin olive oil
Salt and fresh ground black pepper
5 to 7 pound leg of lamb, boned butterflied and surface fat removed
Salt and pepper
8 red-skinned pears
4 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
8 fresh rosemary sprig
Black Pepper Polenta, recipe follows
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In a blender, combine the garlic, rosemary, and 3/4-cup of oil; season with salt and pepper. Puree until everything comes together to form a paste; set aside for a few minutes to let the flavors marry.
Lay the lamb out flat, open like a book. Score the surface lightly with a paring knife. Rub the lamb with the garlic paste, being sure to get in the incisions. Roll up the lamb and tie with butcher's twine to hold the roast together.
Prepare an outdoor gas or charcoal grill. Season the lamb generously with salt and pepper, and then place it on the hot grill (put it on the top rack if you are using a gas grill). Sear the outside of the meat, turning, until brown all around, but do not char. Close the grill cover and roast for 30 minutes. The lamb is done when the center is still pink and the internal temperature reads 135 degrees. Allow the lamb to stand 10 minutes to let the juices settle before cutting off the twine and slicing.
To prepare the pears, halve the pears lengthwise and cut out the cores. Place the pears face down on a baking pan. Drizzle with 4 tablespoons of oil, toss the 8 rosemary sprig on top, and season with salt and pepper. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until the pears are fork tender.
To serve, spoon some polenta on the base of the plate and lay a few slices of the lamb on top; drizzle with a little oil and season with salt and pepper. Put a pear on each plate, face up, and drizzle them with balsamic vinegar. Garnish with a rosemary sprig.
SOFT POLENTA WITH PARMESAN AND BLACK PEPPER
2 quarts chicken stock
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups polenta or yellow cornmeal
1/3 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan
1 1/2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
In a large pot, bring the chicken stock and salt to a boil. Gradually whisk in the cornmeal in a slow steady stream. The liquid will be absorbed and the cornmeal will lock up; don't freak, just whisk through it. Lower the heat and continue to whisk until the polenta is thick and smooth, about 20 minutes. Add the cream and butter; continue to stir until incorporated, about 10 minutes.
Remove from heat, fold in the Parmesan and black pepper and serve.
This recipe by Tyler Florence was adapted from the Food Network website.
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