Memorial Day Barbecue: Grilled Butterflied Leg of Lamb

Filed under: Carolina Bed and Breakfast, recipes, Wine and Food

Boned and Butterflied Barbecue Leg of Lamb from Our Family Table: Recipes & Lessons from a Life Abroad

A Leg of Lamb  boned, butterflied and marinated in a sweet and spicy sauce before grilling.

Memorial Day is almost upon us and, crazy though the weather has been here at the Carolina Bed & Breakfast in Asheville NC, our fingers and toes are crossed for a sunny holiday.  When I was a child growing up on the Long Island Sound, my father, transplanted Southerner that he was, made a tradition of going for the first swim of the year on Memorial Day.  This was in Connecticut and the water would be so cold that it would likely to turn your toes blue if you spent any time in it.  As a child I might have joined him but as an adult and a replanted Southerner I say “No, thank you!” and wait to swim in the warm Atlantic on the North Carolina Coast.

But one tradition we do continue  is the Memorial Day Barbecue, the first real barbecue of the year.  For those of you from the South where Barbecue means slow cooked pork, this is a barbecue in the Northern sense, an outdoor meal consisting of a grilled meat, a variety of salads and a sweet dessert.  What a hodge-podge of traditions and dishes my life is.

While many Americans will be grilling chicken, hot dog, burgers or steaks, I like to celebrate the beginning of Summer with a grilled leg of lamb which has been marinated for a day or two in a sweet and spicy mixture.  This recipe has long been of favorite of my family, starting when my mother first served it and on through my children.  It doesn’t have the gamey taste people often associate with lamb, instead it has a richness that is almost beef-like in flavor.  I have had many guests tell me they don’t like  lamb and then, after dinner, ask me for the recipe!

This recipe is also available in my cookbook, Our Family Table: Recipes & Lessons from a Life Abroad, along with everything else you need to make a wonderful grilled dinner.


Many years ago my mother found a recipe for lamb which included a bottle of French dressing in its marinade.  I still have the clipping for the original recipe.  It has gone with me around the world while I have made adjustments to fit the tastes of my family. We have served this to guests from France to China and always find that even those who don’t like lamb love this dish!   Cooked to a succulent medium-rare the meat is more like a fine cut of beef than a gamy leg of lamb.  It’s perfect for a summer party or dinner.

Serves 6-8

¼  cup ketchup
¼  cup sugar
¼  cup red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon onion powder (or ¼ cup grated onion)
2 teaspoon Old Bay Seasoning (or other BBQ spice)
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon ground pepper
½ teaspoon Worchestershire sauce
1 clove garlic, crushed
½ cup canola oil

2/3 cup chopped onion
1-2 crushed bay leaves

1  leg of lamb, boned and butterflied

In the bowl of a food processor or a blender, place the ketchup, sugar, red wine vinegar, onion powder, bbq spice, paprika, salt and pepper, Worcestershire sauce, and garlic. Give it a whir until everything is blended together.  With the motor running, slowly pour in the canola oil.

Lay the lamb flat in a baking dish large enough to hold it opened out. Put the chopped onion and bay leaves over the lamb;  pour the marinade over the meat.  Use your hands to rub the marinade all over the lamb, being sure to get inside the cuts and cracks.  Cover and place in the refrigerator for at least one day and up to three, turning the lamb twice a day.

Preheat the oven to 350°F and preheat the grill.  Remove the lamb from the marinade and discard the marinade?

Grill about four inches above the hot coals for 10 minutes on each side.  Place in a baking dish and roast an additional 20 to 30 minutes or until  rare to medium rare.

Carolina Bed and Breakfast Cookbook

This recipe and more can be found in my cookbook, available on Amazon!

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