Marinated Lamb with Crispy Polenta Cakes, Roasted Tomatoes & Yogurt Dip: Recipe for Pro Am DC (Fans of Lamb)

I was born in the year of the sheep under the astrological sign of Aries--it's no wonder, then, that I LOVE lamb.

I tend to order lamb whenever I eat out at Indian, Mediterranean or American restaurants and am also not a stranger to cooking lamb.

Some of my favorite dishes include Shepherd's Pie with Goat Cheese Mashed Potatoes, Lamb Pizza, and Lamb Sausage, Mozzarella & Arugula Sandwich.

When I received an email invitation from the American Lamb Board to participate in a recipe competition with twelve other DC area bloggers, I could not say no.

The task was to create an original recipe using a boneless leg of lamb provided by Craig Rogers who owns Border Springs Farm.

The recipes will open for voting {The voting will start Monday and go through February 17th}, and the top four bloggers will compete at the American Lamb Pro-AM event on March 4th.

Once I accepted the invitation, I had to decide what to make. My initial plan was to make a soup from my childhood called harcho. It is made from lamb, potatoes, rice, tomatoes, carrots and onions. Unfortunately, since my dad is not a fan of lamb {and that's putting it mildly}, my mom has only made the soup a few times and could not recall the exact recipe. I thought it might be best to come up with something else.

And then one night, as I was falling asleep, it hit me: lamb and polenta. And spicy tomato sauce. And yogurt dip! I on my nightstand lamp and quickly wrote down the idea so I wouldn't forget it in the morning.

WARNING: this dish is not Kosher or vegetarian; it's definitely not vegan or low calorie. Make it at your own risk.

Note: the nice thing about the following recipe is that you can make most of it in advance. Roast your tomatoes and prepare polenta two nights ahead; marinade the lamb a night before, and then on the day of the dinner party all you have to do is cook the lamb and crisp up the polenta cakes.

Marinated Lamb with Crispy Polenta Cakes, Roasted Tomatoes & Yogurt Dip
Serves 4-8 depending on how hungry you are


For roasted tomatoes
8 Roma tomatoes, sliced
olive oil
salt & pepper

For polenta
4 cups water
1 cup polenta
1/2 cup half & half
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan

For lamb
2 pounds boneless leg of lamb
1 large white onion, peeled and thinly sliced
2 tablespoons smoked paprika
ground pepper
4 garlic cloves, peeled and smashed
4 cups buttermilk

For yogurt dip
1/2 cucumber, peeled, seeded and diced
2 teaspoons chopped dill
1 cup 2% Greek yogurt
salt & pepper

1. For roasted tomatoes: Preheat the oven to 350F. In a bowl, coat tomato slices with oil and season with salt and pepper. Arrange the tomatoes in a single layer on a parchment-lined cookie sheet and roast for 90 minutes. Try not to eat them right away or you'll have none left for the recipe. Store these roasted tomatoes in a tight container in the refrigerator until you are ready to put the whole dish together.

2. For polenta: Bring to boil four cups of water, season with salt. Whisk in the polenta and continue to whisk for the first five minutes. Depending on how fine your cornmeal is ground, continue to cook the polenta for 15-40 minutes. When it has reached the consistency you desire, stir in half & half and grated Parmesan. Pour polenta into a PAM-sprayed 9x13 Pyrex dish, allow to cool, and then store, covered, in the refrigerator.

3. For lamb: in a large bowl, combine 1" cubes of lamb, sliced onions, paprika, smashed garlic and buttermilk. Cover and refrigerate overnight or for a few days.

Let's put it all together!

4. Right before your dinner, use a large biscuit cutter to make round polenta cakes. Carefully saute them in olive oil.
5. Remove the onions from the marinade and saute them in olive oil until they are slightly charred. {I used my cast iron skillet.}
6. In a separate skillet, heat olive oil and cubes of lamb, that have been patted dry. Cook for a few minutes on two of the sides: you want the lamb to still be pink on the inside. Sprinkle the lamb with salt as soon as you take it out from the skillet. {Alternatively, you can bake or broil lamb, but I think pan-sauteeing gives the best results, but also takes the longest amount of time.}
7. Combine all the ingredients for the yogurt dip.
8. To plate: add charred onions on the bottom of a plate. Place one of the polenta cakes on top of the onions, top it with a few pieces of roasted tomatoes and 2-4 cubes of lamb.

9. Top the lamb with yogurt dip, another polenta cake and one slice of roasted tomato. Garnish with fresh dill and dig in!

Variations: you can serve the cubed pieces of lamb in a bowl with soft polenta and top them with charred onions, roasted tomatoes and yogurt dip. That would make the dish a bit more rustic, but equally decadent.

I had a great time developing this recipe and hope you will give it a try.

You can vote now through February 17th.


DeliciousDish said...

I think I'm in love with this recipe. This could seriously be served at a restaurant. It looks incredible!

Olga @ MangoTomato said...

Thank you, Megan!!!!

Lana said...

What a wonderful combination of flavors, Olga! I love, love, love lamb and this is definitely a classy, yet fun way to enjoy it! Good luck:)

Lera Thompson said...

Like I said, it's divine! Just beautiful, Olia!

Cecilia said...

I love every single component of this dish. And such gorgeous photos!

Arugulafiles said...

I want to eat this. Now.

Gorgeous photos, Olga.

Lauren DeSantis said...

Can you make some for me?

Olga @ MangoTomato said...

Ha! I do have some leftovers ;) But the recipe is really simple to make.

Capital Spice said...

This sounds AMAZING. Such a great combination of flavors and it looks wonderful, too.

Sophie said...

Waw! What a festive & very appetizing lamb recipe!

I love it all berautifully combined in this recipe! Yum!

Colleen said...

Beautiful, Olga! Great idea on the buttermilk marinade too.

Tammieperry said...

Looks yummy!

Sasha said...

Damn, lady! You've outdone yourself. This looks incredible. It's like a Mediterranean twist on the classic Southern biscuit and fried chicken combo.

easter lamb said...

It seems to be a orgininal recipe. Looks like a burger. Love it

Jill Mant~a SaucyCook said...

Yum! I would gladly have done the dishes for a few bites of this!! Wish I had seen this when the voting was still on....sorry!