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Traveler’s Kitchen: Grilled Moroccan Spice-Crusted Lamb with Spicy Chili Sauce

brown sugar chipotle powder cilantro cinnamon cooking coriander couscous crushed red pepper flakes cumin dinner dinner party garlic grilled lamb hummus jalapeños lamb leg of lamb Lifestyle naan oregano pimenton recipe saffron salt sauce smoked paprika tomato paste tzatziki white vinegar yellow onion

One thing that we brought back from our trip to Morocco was our love for the country’s cuisine. We regularly add spices popular in Moroccan cooking to traditional American dishes and I’d say we’ve learned to make a mean tagine. There wasn’t one thing we ate while in Morocco that we didn’t want more of and once we were home we knew we’d need to find some recipes that we could handle making. We love to cook but we’re certainly not Top Chefs. Recently we made this recipe and loved it. Chris wants me to bottle the chili sauce so that he can use it on just about everything he eats and I can’t blame him. Make some extra sauce because I assure you, it won’t go to waste.

For the lamb
  • Kosher salt
  • 1 Tbs. light brown sugar
  • 1 Tbs. ground cumin
  • 1 Tbs/ dried oregano
  • 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp. hot pimentón (smoked paprika) or chipotle powder
  • 5 lbs. boneless leg of lamb, trimmed
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
For the sauce
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 large yellow onion, cut into 1/4-inch dice (about 2 cups)
  • 2 large jalapeño peppers (preferably red), cored, seeded, and finely diced (about 1/4 cup)
  • Kosher salt
  • 2 large cloves garlic, finely chopped (about 1 Tbs.)
  • 2 tsp. ground coriander
  • 1 tsp. ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
  • 2 Tbs. tomato paste
  • 2 Tbs. white vinegar, more to taste
  • Prepare the lamb

    In a small bowl, mix 4 tsp. salt with the sugar and spices. Sprinkle all over the lamb, transfer to a large non-reactive dish, and cover; refrigerate for at least 4 hours and up to 2 days. *Note: We refrigerated the lamb for about an hour and there was still a lot of flavor. We’ll be letting it sit longer in the spices next time, but if you don’t have the time don’t be discouraged. It had immense flavor for the little time we let it sit

    Make the sauce

    Heat the oil in a medium (10-inch) sauté pan over medium heat until it’s shimmering. Add the onion, jalapeños, and 1 tsp. salt, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion softens and becomes translucent, about 8 minutes. Add the garlic, coriander, cumin, and red pepper flakes, and cook, stirring, until the garlic becomes fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the tomato paste, and cook, stirring, until the paste starts to darken, about 1 minute. Add 3/4 cup water and the vinegar; bring to a boil, then simmer until the onion is completely tender, about 10 minutes. Transfer to a food processor and purée. Let cool to room temperature, season to taste with more salt, pepper, and vinegar if needed. Set aside; or transfer to an airtight container and refrigerate for up to three days.

    Grill the lamb

    There are plenty of indicators used to check for doneness, but the best way to ensure you get your meat just to your liking is by taking its temperature with an instant-read thermometer. Just insert the thermometer in the thickest part of the meat, away from the bone.

    For a gas grill, light the front burner to medium-high and the back burner(s) to medium-low. For a charcoal grill, light a medium-hot fire (400°F) with two-thirds of the coals banked to one side. Clean and oil the grill grates. Grill the lamb over the hotter part of the fire without moving it until it’s nicely browned, 6 to 8 minutes. Turn, move to the cooler part of the fire, and cook until an instant-read thermometer inserted into a thicker part of the lamb registers 135°F for medium-rare, 8 to 10 more minutes.

    To serve

    Transfer the lamb to a cutting board, tent with foil, and let rest for 10 minutes. Thinly slice across the grain, transfer to a large platter, and sprinkle with the cilantro. Serve with the sauce on the side.

For a side we made couscous with Ras al Hanout (a popular Moroccan seasoning you can find at Whole Foods or shops with international spices), cumin and saffron to taste. I added chopped red and yellow peppers that we had grilled and 1/4 of a diced red onion. I also baked some naan bread which you can find with fresh bread or in the frozen section of your grocery store (it can be grilled, too). Brush the naan with olive oil and add any spices you like. I usually sprinkle a garlic blend on top and then bake in 350 degree oven for 6-10 minutes. Check on it and take it out once it has some bubbling and crisping edges. We also had hummus a tzatziki as additional condiments for the lamb and naan for dipping.

Looking forward to making it again for friends at an upcoming dinner party. There really is so much flavor for a minimal amount of work. This recipe is highly recommended by this traveler’s test kitchen.

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(Photo Sources: 1, 2, 3, 4)

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