Bastille Day is the name given in English-speaking countries to the French National Day, which is celebrated on the 14th of July each year. In France, it is formally called La Fête Nationale (The National Celebration) and commonly Le quatorze juillet (the fourteenth of July).
It commemorates the 1790 Fête de la Fédération, held on the first anniversary of the storming of the Bastille on 14 July 1789; the anniversary of the storming of the Bastille fortress-prison was seen as a symbol of the uprising of the modern nation, and of the reconciliation of all the French inside the constitutional monarchy which preceded the First Republic, during the French Revolution. (Thank you Wikipedia.)
So, in honor of Bastille Day, I will lay aside my usual witty jabs and cheap shots at the French, and offer up two of my favorite french-inspired grill dishes for your outdoor cooking pleasure. So, have some wine, smoke a cigarette, eat some brie, hug a socialist…but whatever you do, enjoy!
And to the country that has, admittedly, given the world some of its finest food and finest Chefs, I say…Vive la France!
Grilled Butterflied Leg of Lamb
The only way to eat lamb is medium rare or rare. That’s first. If you don’t like that, stop reading here and look for another recipe. Please, please, please DO NOT ruin this beautiful piece of meat, but cooking to “medium well” or “well done” both of which are oxymorons.
Now, if you’re still with us…awesome! Let’s grill!
We’re going to sear the lamb first, on both sides, briefly, and directly over high heat, then move it over to indirect (lower) heat until it’s cooked through. In our opinion.
To cook this lamb perfectly, you gotta use a meat thermometer to track the internal temperature of the roast. No questions, you just gotta.
1 boneless leg of lamb, 5 to 6 pounds, butterflied
1 medium sweet onion
6 cloves of garlic, peeled
1/4 cup herbs de provence*
1 lemon, zested
1/4 cup beef stock or broth
1 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
2 Tbsp olive oil
Sea salt (coarse) and fresh ground black pepper
*Herbs de Provence – a mixture of dried herbs which can be found on most spice aisles, or you can make you own by combining:
4 teaspoon thyme
4 teaspoon summer savory
2 teaspoon marjoram
1 teaspoon rosemary
2 teaspoon basil
1 teaspoon sage
Combine sweet onion, garlic, herbs de provence, beef stock, lemon zest, vinegar, and olive oil into a food processor and pulse to combine.
Sprinkle a fist-full salt and pepper over the lamb. Put the lamb into a gallon freezer bag, pour in the marinade, and massage it into every nook and cranny of the roast. Seal ‘er up, and refrigerate for 6-8 hours, or overnight.
Remove the meat from your refrigerator and set it in one counter (still in the bag) for about an house, to come to room temperature.
Now, we’re ready to grill!
Remove the leg from the bag, and run a couple of long skewers through it to use as handles when flipping (you’ll lose less of that yummy coating than if you used tongs, and, of course, you wouldn’t DREAM of stabbing it with a meat fork…right…RIGHT?)
If you’re are using a charcoal grill, or a La Caja China (pictured) start your coals in a chimney, and pour them into a double layer on one half of the cooking area (right or left) and just sprinkle a few on the other side. This is a “2-Zone Fire”.
For gas grills, crank that sucker up up as high as she’ll go on all burners, and when she’s good and hot, turn one side off. Toss three or four chunks of soaked oak on the coals, or start some oak chips smoking in a smoker box on your gas grill.
If you don’t have any oak, no biggie, but it does add a nice, mellow flavor to lamb.
Set the lamb, fat-cap down, on the hot side of the grill. You’re going to get some flames, and that’s okay (that’s what we like to call “the flavor”) You might want to have a squirt bottle of water or beer handy, to control the flames if needed.
Grill it hot on one side for about four minutes, then flip ‘er over to sear the other side for another 4 minutes. Then, move that little lamb to the indirect heat (cooler) side side of the grill.
Cover the grill and let cook for an additional 35-45 minutes (You want the cooking area to maintain at about 325-350°F.), until a meat thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the roast registers 130°F (for medium rare).
I strongly suggest using a remote meat probe, so you don’t poke a bunch of holes it the poor thing before it’s done.
When done, move the roast to a cutting board, cover with foil and let rest for at least 10 minutes. Pull the skewers and toss.
Slice the lamb across the grain, in half-inch thick slices. Arrange the slices slices on a warm platter (take it to the next level by covering the platter in a thick layer or hot buttery garlic mashed potatoes first) and pour the meat juices over the slices.
Serve with mint jelly or horseradish.
Leftovers make for a fantastic Bahn Mi sandwich!
“Ratatouille doesn’t sound delicious. It sounds like “rat” and “patootie.” Rat-patootie, which does not sound delicious.” – Linguini
With all respect to Monsieur Linguini, while ratatouille may not sound delicious, it tastes freakin’ awesome, especially hot off the grill!
Ratatouille (pronounced rat-eh-too-ee) is a traditional French Provençal stewed vegetable dish, originating in Nice. The full name of the dish is ratatouille niçoise.
2 zucchini, cut into quarters lengthwise
2 eggplant, halved lengthwise
2 yellow squash, cut into quarters lengthwise
2 red onions, quartered
1 pint grape tomatoes
2 red bell peppers, stemmed, seeded and quartered
2 yellow bell peppers, stemmed, seeded and quartered
1/2 cup olive oil, plus 2 tablespoons
Salt and freshly ground pepper
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 Tbs finely chopped fresh oregano leaves
1/4 cup finely chopped Italian parsley leaves
1/4 cup fresh basil leaves, torn
Heat the grill to medium-high.
Toss all veggies in a bowl with the 1/2 cup of olive oil, and coat well. Add salt and pepper, to taste.
Grill veggies, cut side down for 5 to 6 minutes, turning halfway through the cooking time. Remove the tomatoes, cover your grill, and cook the remaining vegetables for 2 more minutes, or until almost cooked through.
Transfer vegetables to a cutting board and coarsely chop (leave the tomatoes whole).
Put the chopped vegetables and tomatoes in a large bowl, add the 2 tablespoons of olive oil, garlic, oregano and parsley and season with salt and pepper, to taste. Toss gently and serve.
Note: The leftovers, if you have any, are great the next morning over eggs scrambled with a little feta cheese!