One of my favorite ways to make steak is called tagliata or, to be more precise, tagliata di manzo. The word ‘tagliato‘ means simply ‘cut’ or ‘sliced’, and manzo means beef. The dish is, quite simply, sliced steak, grilled rare, arranged over a bed of arugula and dressed with olive oil, salt and pepper and, if you like, garnished with parmesan shavings. (See this post for the recipe.) Well, the other day I saw a nice piece of butterflied leg of lamb at the market, perfect for an early Spring cookout, and the thought occurred to me: why not make a tagliata of lamb instead of beef? An unorthodox idea— in Italian cuisine leg of lamb is usually either cut up for stew or pot-roasted—but that is what I did, and I actually rather liked the result.
Here’s what you do: Marinate a nice butterflied leg of lamb in a mixture of olive oil, salt and pepper to taste, two crushed garlic cloves and a sprig or two of rosemary. You can either whizz these together in a food processor or simply sprinkle them directly on the meat, as you prefer. Obviously, the first method will result in a more assertive flavor. For best results, let the lamb marinate overnight in the fridge, wrapped in plastic (a plastic freezer bag also works nicely). If you don’t have that much time or haven’t planned ahead, no worries; even an hour or two will lend flavor. If you’ve refrigerated the meat, take it out of the fridge and allow it to come to room temperature (this should take about a half hour or so).
Grill the lamb directly over a hot fire, about 10-15 minutes per side, depending on the thickness of your meat, until nicely crusted on the outside and pink, or medium-rare, on the inside. Allow the meat to rest for a good 10-15 minutes, then slice it against the grain and place the slices over a bed of baby arugula. Season the whole liberally with salt and pepper, then drizzle with olive oil and, if you like, a few drops of lemon juice. If you like, some parmesan shavings would not hurt.
NOTES: The degree of doneness is, of course, a matter of taste, but I find that grilled leg of lamb tastes best ‘pink’, or medium-rare, in the French manner. (If you want to be sure, check for an internal temperature of 130F/55C with a meat thermometer.) A classic tagliata di manzo is usually serve very rare—red, not pink inside—but lamb does not really lend itself to serving truly rare. On the other hand, while lamb is usually cooked well-done in Italian cuisine, I can’t imagine a well-done tagliata, so I opt for the French way, however unorthodox it may be.
Once ready to go, it is best to serve your tagliata immediately, as otherwise the arugula will wilt and the meat will get cold.