Leg of Lamb Cooked in Fresh Alfalfa/Hay

Every few months or so I check the online menus of Chez Panisse. Mostly it’s for inspiration tinged with a subtle form of torture. Me on the cool Canadian West Coast, she to the South in California. While we’re still gleaning meals out of local, seasonal root vegetables and winter greens, Chez Panisse is basking in first of the season fava beans and strawberries. Sigh. But inspiration trumped torture recently when I spied this on their menu: Jambon au Foin – Brined leg of Magruder Ranch pork cooked in fresh alfalfa hay with herb and caper sauce. Cooking with hay. How obscure is that?
Little information is available about this technique but I found hints using lamb from U.K. cookbook author Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall who bakes a leg of lamb in hay, as did James Tanner. The former suggest chopped fresh herbs – thyme, marjoram and rosemary – mixed in with a thick layer of butter slathered over the lamb’s surface. The latter chef adds lemon zest with herbs and garlic, no butter over the lamb. I couldn’t find a recipe using pork and the lamb looked so luscious.
I sourced fresh alfalfa through an organic farmer, a leg of New Zealand lamb and set about an experiment.

I think you can guess what happened to the butter. It’s at the bottom of the roasting pan. I poured it over the cooked meat.

Flavour? Herbal, perfectly cooked with subtle grassy notes. The process and presentation is nothing short of spectacular but would I do it again?
Well, yes. I have a line on some freshly dried hay, which may add more intensity, as its aroma is more intense. I may try this with brined pork or with lamb again. Local lamb.

One Response to “Leg of Lamb Cooked in Fresh Alfalfa/Hay”

  1. I have just discovered another recipe for lamb in hay. Michel Guerards’ Cuisine Minceur page 215. Leg of milk-fed baby lamb baked in hay.
    Since his cuisine is one of slimness, there is no butter slathering but just fistfuls of herbs, hay and fat free juice form a roast of lamb.
    The horizon looks good.

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