Smoked Ham of Lamb

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I had picked up a very nice double magnum of 1998 red Sancerre from Henri Bourgeois at the winery, and decided to open it for a dinner party with friends who I knew would enjoy it. A double magnum equals 4 regular bottles, so I had to think of several dishes that would be eaten with this wine. I decided that if we would drink one wine with all three savory dishes of the meal (antipasto, primo, secondo), then an appropriate theme would be to base all the dishes on the same main ingredient. Since red sancerre (similar to red burgundy) goes well with lamb, lamb it would be. I went to my butcher and asked him to reserve some nice pieces of the next lamb he was going to buy. And it so it was literally the same main ingredient, because all the dishes we had came from the same animal. It had to be a female, because I wanted to slow-cook the neck and with a male animal there may be a strong odor that will be accentuated by the low and slow cooking.

It was easy to decide the primo (Ravioli with Lamb and Eggplant) and the secondo (neck and rack sous-vide, post to follow), but I had to think a bit before I thought of an antipasto. Since I had not thought of anything with the leg part yet, I decided to try making my own smoked ham. I had never done this before, but did what I thought would work and it did! I didn’t have time to make a ham in the classic way (with long brining or curing), so I just cured it overnight, hot-smoked it for a bit to give it a wonderful smoky aroma, and then finished cooking the ham sous-vide. (If you don’t have sous-vide equipment you could also perform this final step in the oven.) The hot-smoking step only cooks the outside of the meat while giving it a wonderful smoky aroma, the inside will stay raw as it is such a large piece of meat. When the cooking is finished sous-vide, the smoky flavor will penetrate from the outside to the core of the meat.

It was absolutely delicious! The meat was amazingly tender, succulent, and flavorful. This was such a great dish for the effort that I will definitely make this again. I hope you’ll give it a try!

Ingredients

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leg of lamb (or part of it), bone removed

salt

fresh rosemary and thyme

extra virgin olive oil

Preparation

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Rub the outside liberally with salt and refrigerate in an airtight container for at least 12 hours.

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The meat will absorb the salt and release some juices. There is no need to wash off the salt, just pat it dry with paper towels.

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Rub the meat with olive oil. Put it in a smoker with 2 Tbsp of smoking dust.

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Hot-smoke for 20 minutes.

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The lamb will now have taken on a wonderful golden color and smoky aroma. Allow to cool if cooking sous-vide. Otherwise, insert the probe of an instant-read thermometer and finish in the oven at 160C/325F until a core temperature of 55C/131F has been reached, and then allow to cool to room temperature and then refrigerate to firm up.

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Vacuum seal the meat once it’s at room temperature with fresh rosemary and thyme. (If you try to vacuum seal when the meat is still hot, too many juices will be drawn out. At a cooler temperature the juices are more sluggish.)

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Cook sous-vide for 6-18 hours at 57C/135F, depending on the size. (For the 1 kg/2.2 lbs piece I had, 6 hours was sufficient.)

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Allow to cool by submerging the pouch in (ice) cold water. Refrigerate to firm up the meat, which will make it easier to slice.

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Slice into thin slices.

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I served the ham just like that a garnish of roasted bell pepper salad (roasted bell peppers, extra virgin olive oil, balsamic, salt, freshly ground black pepper).

If you like you can add additional olive oil, salt, and freshly ground black pepper, but it was delicious just like that.

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14 thoughts on “Smoked Ham of Lamb

    1. Chops would be different, as the technique I used here (I should probably add that in the post) is that the outside is smoked and cooked the same time while the inside stays raw since it’s such a big piece of meat. Then as the cooking is finished sous-vide, the smoking flavor is infused into the core of the meat. With chops it would be different as after 20 minutes in the smoker they would probably be cooked through already. Will probably still be great though 🙂

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  1. Intriguing. I have slow smoked lamb before and it is quite tasty. I’m still playing with the sous vide and while I like it a lot I don’t find it provides the deep rich flavor you get with other cooking techniques. Now, don’t misunderstand me because it cooks meat beautifully and flawlessly. It just seems to me that in the process of retaining all of the moist juices internally you loose some of the internal flavoring. I’m still a novice at sous vide and learning so this technique is very intriguing because one of the drawbacks of slow smoking meats is its tendency to dry our the meat, unless it is a very fatty meat. I definitely need to give this a try. Thanks for the inspiration, I will let you know what happens. 🙂

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    1. I agree that in most cases some other cooking method is needed together with sous-vide to get a deep flavor, such as smoking in this case. Since sous-vide cooking of meat takes so long, there is a lot of time for flavors to penetrate deeply into the meat while maintaining the juiciness.

      I also have a hunch that you are generally speaking into bolder flavors compared to me being more into elegant flavors. And sous-vide is the best way to bring out the elegant flavor of the protein itself rather than spices and sauces. Then again, you suggested the breaded chicken breast to me, which was very elegant.

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  2. That serving of smoked lamb looks like it was cooked just about perfectly, with no evidences of “smoker ring”. I think combining the smoker and sous vide techniques worked beautifully here. It sounds like you prepared a wonderful dinner for your guests.

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