Slow Cooked Lamb Shoulder Roast
Tender, flavorful lamb in a simple pan sauce
For some reason many people find cooking lamb intimidating. part of the reason is likely a bad experience with tough, or gamey, but I think the biggest issue is familiarity. In America we eat far less lamb than is the norm in most places through the world. In fact, we eat far less than we used to. So most of us aren’t as confident cooking lamb as we are cooking beef or chicken. But lamb can be very easy and very rewarding.
Lamb shoulder is a perfect cut for slow cooking. A rolled, boneless shoulder has the benefits of being very easy to carve and serve – just cut it into slices. Properly raised grass fed lamb will have superior flavor so long as you’re sourcing it from a good farmer. (If you’re looking for a local source, here’s a directory of grass fed lamb farms.)
A simple sauce
This recipe takes a little while to cook, but the prep time is minimal. Because the shoulder is a flavorful cut, a more assertive sauce based on wine, stock, garlic, and bay leaf complements it beautifully. On the wine – as when making coq au vin or similar recipes that prominently feature it, picking the right one is important. Big, oaky cabernets will taste strange and turn the sauce purple, as will merlot. Go for pinot noir, a beaujolais or similar dry, light or medium bodied wine.
When reducing the sauce, wait until it has thickened but is not too thick. The old standard, that it should coat the back of a spoon, is perfect. Wait until it has reached its finished state before adding salt. If you add it earlier, you will end up concentrating it as the sauce reduces, which can ruin everything. (Maybe not everything – you’ll still have the lamb.)
Slow Cooked Lamb Shoulder Roast
- 1 lamb shoulder roast, 2-2.5 pounds
- 1 tbsp butter
- 2 cloves garlic
- 1 cup dry red wine medium bodied – pinot noir or similar
- 1 cup chicken broth, low sodium
- 1 tbsp tomato paste
- 1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
- 1 tbsp unflavored gelatin
- 2 bay leaves
- salt to taste
- In a dutch oven or large pot, heat butter until foaming. Sear the lamb roast on all sides. Meanwhile, peel and mince garlic
- Add garlic and cook briefly, being careful not to burn, then add all remaining ingredients. Cook over medium heat until simmering, then reduce heat to low and cover.
- After about an hour, flip the roast over. After two hours, start checking for doneness. One easy way is with a good digital thermometer. If the internal temperature in the thickest part reads 190-195, it will be perfect. If you don't have a thermometer, insert a sharp knife. You want the meat to be tender, but not falling apart.
- Once the roast is done, remove it to a plate and tent it with foil. If the liquid in the pot is excessively fatty, use a separator or a small ladle to remove some. Don't worry about getting it all. Raise heat to medium-high, and stir until the sauce has thickened enough to coat the back of a spoon.
- Cut the roast into slices. If it's cooled too much, feel free to briefly simmer the individual slices in the sauce before plating them. Otherwise just pour the sauce over top. Serve with sautéed greens and the remainder of the wine.