We’ve been incredibly lucky with a fairly mild winter so far here in Ontario, but the desire for fall-off-the-bones-tender meat still runs strong. We were planning a casual family dinner for an undetermined number of people over the holidays — a familiar theme for many of us, it seems. The demands of of five separate households of adults and their offspring contributed to the confusion: competing schedules, incipient colds, daycare drop-offs and pickups, last minute errands… We could be anywhere from six to twelve adults and assorted small fry.
No matter. I settled on braised shoulder of lamb as the main course. One shoulder weighs 3 to 4 pounds, so I did two, anticipating that the leftovers would be excellent over pasta or polenta.
By doubling the recipe below, I also prepared what I considered to be a massive quantity of Provencal vegetables, hoping I’d have some for bruschetta with chèvre the next day. No such luck. Nary a spoonful remained.
- 5 cloves garlic, peeled
- 3 to 4 Italian (flat-leaf) parsley stems
- 6 whole black peppercorns
- 1 bay leaf
- 6 fresh thyme sprigs
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 4 pounds boned lamb shoulder, rolled and tied (you can ask your butcher to do this), at room temperature
- 2 medium celery ribs, chopped
- 1 large onion, chopped
- 1 large carrot, peeled and chopped
- 1 cup canned tomatoes, crushed (I used a food mill)
- 5 cups chicken stock
- Kosher salt to taste
- Preheat oven to 300°F. Wrap the garlic cloves in foil and roast until soft and fragrant, about 10 to 15 minutes.
- Make a bouquet garni of the parsley, peppercorns, bay leaf, and thyme in a piece of cheesecloth.
- In a heavy cast-iron Dutch oven, heat the oil over high heat. Add the lamb and sear it on all sides, about 5 minutes each side. When a nice brown crust has developed all over the meat, remove it from the pan and set it aside.
- Lower the heat to medium and add the celery, onions, carrots, and garlic to the Dutch oven and sauté for about 5 minutes, or until the onions are slightly translucent.
- Add the tomatoes (you can put the food mill right over the Dutch oven and crush the tomatoes into it), stock, and the sachet holding the herbs and spices. Bring the liquid to a boil, then return the lamb to the Dutch oven. Cover with a tight-fitting lid and transfer to the oven. Cook for 4 to 5 hours, or until the lamb is tender.
- Remove the Dutch oven from the oven. Transfer the lamb to a plate. Remove and discard the sachet. Skim off as much fat as you can from the top of the braising liquid,
- Slice the lamb across the grain and arrange the slices in a shallow serving dish (I used a copper gratin pan). Spoon the sauce over the meat and serve immediately.
- If time permits, make the lamb the day before you plan to serve it. When it comes out of the oven, remove the lamb from the braising liquid and allow everything to cool sufficiently to be refrigerated. Put the lamb in a large ziplock bag and refrigerate. If you have room, put the Dutch oven right into the fridge, or remove the braising liquid to a large glass/ceramic container and refrigerate that. The following day, remove the layer of fat from the top of the braising liquid. About an hour before you want to serve, reheat the lamb in the de-fatted braising liquid at 300°F.
- Prep Time: 30
- Serving Size: 4
- 1 red bell pepper, cored and cut into 1” pieces
- 1 yellow bell pepper, cored and cut into 1” pieces
- 2 green or yellow courgettes, sliced into 1/2” slices
- 1 large onion, peeled and cut into 1” pieces
- 1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
- olive oil
- 3 tbsp chopped fresh herbs (I used Italian Parsley, Rosemary and Oregano) or 1 tbsp Herbs de Provence
- Preheat the oven to 375° F Convection Roast or 400° F Bake.
- Place the red peppers and courgettes on a rimmed baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with kosher salt. Sprinkle with 2 tbsp of the herb mixture. Toss the vegetables with your hands until well coated. Place into the oven.
- Repeat with the tomatoes and onions on another tray, using the remaining tbsp of herbs. When the peppers and courgettes are starting to brown (about 10 minutes), place the tomatoes and onions in the oven.
- Toss the vegetables and reposition the trays in the oven periodically to ensure even browning, All of the vegetables should be done within about 15 minutes.
- Traditionally Herbs de Provence is a mixture of dried herbs from the Provence region in France and comprises savory, rosemary, oregano, thyme and marjoram. I prefer to use fresh herbs when possible.
- Prep Time: 10
- Cook Time: 15
- Serving Size: 4