It’s a shame Americans don’t eat much lamb, as in summer, it is especially delicious grilled. Of all the various cuts of lamb, most can be made into chops. Some, like rib chops (from the rack) or loin chops (which look like miniature T-bone steaks), are expensive, but there are cheaper options, like shoulder and sirloin chops.
Among reasonably priced chops is the meaty center-cut leg steak. A thick slice with a round bone in the center, it is the easiest to prepare, especially compared with a butterflied whole boneless leg, which can be difficult to cook evenly and carve. Just ask your butcher to cut one for you if there isn’t one on display.
Weighing about a pound and a half, and cut 1 1/2 to 2 inches thick, it is a hefty steak. It takes only about 10 minutes to cook over fairly high heat, over coals, on the stovetop in a ridged or flat cast-iron pan, or under the broiler. Sear it on one side until nicely browned, then flip it, waiting and watching for the juices to rise to the steak’s surface (a thermometer should read 125 to 130 degrees). For a juicy medium-rare, let the steak rest for 10 minutes before slicing.
It’s a good idea to season the steak well in advance of cooking. Be generous with salt and pepper, then shower it with roughly chopped rosemary, sliced garlic and a little olive oil, rubbing it in with your hands to coat well. Make that the first step, so the meat has time to absorb the simple marinade; at least 20 minutes, if possible. Then, prepare the olive relish, which isn’t difficult at all, since you’ll probably buy pitted olives: These days, they’re easier to find than olives with pits – even at the best supermarket “olive bars” – and certainly better than those flavorless canned ones.
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Look for tasty black Niçoise or Gaeta olives and briny green Lucques or Castelvetranos. You can easily hand chop them into a chunky relish or use a food processor to pulse them into a rough paste. The recipe makes enough for leftover relish, which is great spread on toasted baguette slices and served with drinks; tossed with pasta; or served as a sauce with any kind of fish.
Lastly, I found delicious, sweet medium-size tomatoes at the farmers’ market, so I grilled them briefly, just to warm them through. Finished with a handful of arugula leaves, the combination of lamb, olives and tomatoes made a satisfying, rustic-yet-elegant summer meal one recent evening. Paired with a chilled bottle of rosé, it was the perfect distraction from the muggy New York heat wave.
Lamb Leg Steak With Olive Relish and Tomatoes
Yield: 3 to 4 servings
Total time: 45 minutes
For the steak
1 center-cut lamb leg steak, about 1 1/2 pounds, cut 1 1/2 to 2 inches thick
Salt and pepper
1 tablespoon roughly chopped rosemary
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
4 medium tomatoes, halved horizontally (optional)
Large handful of arugula, for garnish
For the olive relish
3/4 cup roughly chopped pitted olives, a mix of black and green
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 lemon, skin on, seeded and finely chopped (about 2 tablespoons)
1 garlic clove, smashed
Red-pepper flakes, to taste
Salt and pepper
Prepare the lamb: Season lamb generously on both sides with salt and pepper. Sprinkle with rosemary, olive oil and garlic, smearing with hands to coat. Set aside at room temperature. Season cut sides of tomatoes, if using, with salt. (Light the grill now, if using charcoal.)
Make the olive relish: Stir together chopped olives, olive oil, lemon, garlic and red pepper in a small bowl. Taste and adjust seasoning.
Have a charcoal grill ready or heat a ridged stovetop grill or cast-iron pan over medium-high heat. Grill or sear the lamb steak on one side for about 5 minutes, until nicely browned. Flip steak and cook on the other side for about 5 minutes more, until juices appear on the surface. Set aside to rest.
Place tomatoes, if using, seasoned with salt and pepper, cut-side-up on grill, pan or broiler, and cook for about 5 minutes, until heated through, but still firm.
To serve, slice lamb into 1/8-inch slices and arrange on a platter. Surround with tomatoes and arugula. Pass olive relish separately.