Rosemary Lamb Shoulder

I’m a big fan of braising meat. The cuts most suited to braising are typically more flavorful, and when they break down over several hours, they become incredibly tender and create their own sauce in the process. The smell fills the house and it becomes its own appetizer. It’s comforting and one of the only reasons I ever look forward to winter.

As far as braises go, lamb shoulder is among the more expensive cuts to buy, but every so often I like to splurge. Rosemary and lamb is a classic Mediterranean pairing for good reason and I rarely deviate. There are some things in cooking that are just the way they should be. Mint is lovely too, though mint leaves are too delicate to really stand up well during the braising process. I can’t remember where I learned this trick, but dissolving a few Altoids into the reduced jus turns it into a nice mint sauce accompaniment if you’re so inclined.

Rosemary Lamb Shoulder

Ingredients:

  • 4-pound bone-in lamb shoulder, excess fat removed and scored 1/2″ deep on top
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 head garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
  • 3-4 sprigs rosemary
  • 1 carrot, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 1 stalk celery, roughly chopped
  • 1 onion, roughly chopped
  • 1 pound baby potatoes
  • 1 bay leaf
  • (optional) juice of 1 lemon
  • salt and pepper

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 500 degrees.

Rub lamb with olive oil and season liberally with salt and freshly cracked pepper. Press the crushed garlic and rosemary sprigs into the scored surface.

Arrange carrot, celery, and onion in the center of a roasting pan and place the lamb on top. Arrange the potatoes around the outside, cover with 1/2″ boiling water, toss in a bay leaf and seal tightly with aluminum foil.

Place the roasting pan into the oven and reduce the heat to 325 degrees. Cook until the meat can be easily pulled away from the bone with a fork, about 2-3 hours, then remove the foil and cook for an additional 20-30 minutes, until the surface gets a bit drier to intensify the flavor.

Transfer the lamb to a platter to keep warm, removing the rosemary sprigs and large chunks of garlic. Transfer the potatoes to a serving dish (returning them to the oven and turning it to 500 degrees if you want them to have crisper skins) and discard the other vegetables.

To prepare the jus, skim off the excess fat from the liquid. Pour the liquid into a pot and bring to a boil. Taste it. If it is salty, do not reduce it anymore or it will just become saltier. Serve it as is, or whisk in slurry (equal parts starch, such as flour or cornstarch, and cold water is shaken in a jar) to thicken like a gravy. If it is not salty, by all means, reduce it until you have a thicker, flavorful sauce, or simply season it to your liking and pour. I like to add the juice of one lemon for a bit of zipping, but it is optional.

Slice the lamb and serve it with your roasted potatoes, jus/gravy, and something green so no one feels guilty, such as the sauteed kale pictured here.