Herb-Crusted Lamb Skewers with Dijon Mustard
Last summer I went on a mission to create some the most flavorful skewers of meat as possible. That led me to awesome things like beefy steakhouse kebabs, sweet and salty yakitori, tangy mojo pork skewers, and a host of others I'll be sharing in the coming months. Of them all though, these herb-crusted lamb skewers tugged at my heart the most. I'm a man who gives preference to strong over subtle flavors, and with a heavy base like lamb that's built upon with spicy Dijon and a mixture of fresh herbs, these kebabs delivered so much for me to love.
When it comes to choosing a cut of lamb for skewers, I've stuck with the leg from day one. Compared to other cuts, the leg has the largest portion of meat and the least amount of fat and connective tissue—making it well-suited for hot and fast cooking with tender results. The leg also has a smoother lamb flavor that is more universally appealing than more heavy-handed sections like the shoulder or ribs.
I said I set out to make the most flavorful skewers of meat possible, which meant leaving no chance to inject additional seasoning unexplored. I knew the combo of lamb, mustard, and herbs would make for a great kebab already, but I used a lemon and oil based marinade as a way to introduce a little tanginess to the party. I also put a hefty portion of garlic in the marinade, along with generous amounts of salt and pepper to ensure the meat would be well seasoned.
Because the marinade was heavily acidic, and an acid can turn meat mushy over time, I didn't want to let the lamb soak for too long. I just let it sit in the liquid for a couple hours. You could go a bit longer than that—probably up to five hours—but leaving the lamb in for too much time will change the texture of the meat in way that it wouldn't be great for these skewers, although spiedies prove that long acidic marinades have their time and place.
As the cubed lamb soaked in its lemony liquid, I took to chopping a bunch of herbs that would form the final crust. My ideal trio for the mixture was a combo of equal parts thyme and sage, plus a bit less of the more powerful rosemary. You can scale this up or down, tailoring it to your own tastes or whatever herbs you happen to have on hand—oregano, tarragon, marjoram, etc. would all be fine choices.
I then threaded the lamb onto bamboo skewers that I had soaked in water while the meat marinated—the water logged wood helps it from burning up on the grill. I had successfully cut the meat into fairly consistent one-inch cubes, which made the skewers all equal size.
The uniform size is key, because once on the grill, I wanted the lamb to all cook at the same rate. I seared the skewers first over high direct heat, letting them develop a nicely browned crust on all sides.
I then moved the skewers to indirect heat, brushed on a layer of Dijon, and sprinkled them all over with the herb mixture. Since I didn't want the herbs to burn and lose their flavor, it was important to cook them more gently this way. I left the kebabs on the grill until the lamb reached around medium-rare doneness—130°F—which didn't take all that long, but long enough for the mustard and herbs to bake down a bit, adhering well to the meat.
I set out to make a flavor-packed skewer, and got everything I had wished for. The rich lamb was tender and had an embedded lemony tang that complimented it well. The concentrated flavor of the sear was excellent, giving a powerful base that was only outdone by the heavy hitting mustard. The heat and bite of the Dijon was great pairing against both the meat and strong herbal crust. Taken altogether, it all combined to make one incredible stick of meat.
Herb-Crusted Lamb Skewers with Dijon Mustard
- Yield 4-6 servings
- Prep 15 Minutes
- Inactive 1 Hour
- Cook 15 Minutes
- Total 1 Hour 30 Minutes
- For the Marinade
- 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 3 tablespoons fresh juice from 2 lemons
- 1 tablespoon freshly minced garlic
- 1 tablespoon kosher salt
- 2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
- 2 pounds boneless leg of lamb, cut into 1-inch cubes
- For the Herb Mixture
- 1 tablespoons finely chopped fresh thyme
- 1 tablespoons finely chopped fresh sage
- 2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh rosemary
- 1/2 cup Dijon mustard
- Wooden skewers, soaked in water for at least 30 minutes prior to use
- For the Marinade: Whisk together oil, lemon juice, garlic, salt, and pepper in a small bowl. Place lambs cubes in a large resealable plastic bag. Pour in marinade and seal bag, removing as much air as possible. Place in refrigerator and marinate for at least 1 and up to 5 hours. Remove lamb from marinade and thread onto skewers.
- For the Herb Mixture: Mix together thyme, sage, and rosemary in a small bowl. Set aside.
- Light one chimney full of charcoal. When all the charcoal is lit and covered with gray ash, pour out and arrange coals on one side of the charcoal grate. Set cooking grate in place, cover grill and allow to preheat for 5 minutes. Clean and oil the grilling grate. Grill skewers over direct heat until lamb is well seared on all sides, about 3 minutes per side.
- Move skewers to cool side of grill and brush with mustard. Sprinkle all over with herb mixture. Cover grill and continue to cook until center of lamb registers 130°F on an instant-read thermometer. Transfer skewers to platter and let rest for 5 minutes. Serve immediately.
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bristol plasterer Lovely, i love a lamb kebabs. Thanks for sharing this recipe.