Friday, April 14, 2017

Greek slow-roasted lamb shoulder with potatoes and herbs

It doesn’t matter if you spend Easter with your extended family, immediate family, your friends or just your partner, this Greek lamb shoulder can be the centerpiece of your Easter table. It can feed two to twelve people, if you adjust the quantities that is, it is easy to make so you won’t slave in the kitchen all day, and it’s all in one pan, both potatoes and lamb, the way Greeks do it.

Granted, if you have lamb on a spit planned, as many of us Greeks do on Easter Sunday, then perhaps you’ll forego this one, but do keep it on the back burner for a special Sunday lunch or for that special occasion when you have friends over.

This is the way I like to prepare my lamb shoulder, which if cooked properly, has a richer and fuller flavor than the leg of lamb.

The lamb is slowly cooked in the oven for a little over three hours, which gives it plenty of time to get to know all the ingredients in the pan, soaking up all those flavors from the rosemary, the thyme, the oregano, the mustard, the garlic, the lemon, the extra virgin olive oil. In the end, it is fork tender, falling off the bone and incredibly juicy inside with a gloriously crispy skin. The potatoes too are tender inside and crispy on the outside, and utterly scrumptious. And the juices? Oh the juices. Those are perhaps the best part. Take your crusty bread and dunk away. What more can you ask for?

Kalo Pascha!! Happy Easter!!

Greek slow-roasted lamb shoulder with potatoes and herbs

Make sure to cut the potatoes on the thick side so they won’t disintegrate as they will roast for almost three hours.
Don’t rinse the lamb before coking as it takes away some of its flavor.

Yield: 4 servings

1.5 - 2 kg whole, bone-in lamb shoulder
5-6 large potatoes, cut into thick-ish wedges
1 Tbsp mild yellow mustard
6 whole garlic cloves, with skins
3 peeled garlic cloves, cut into four lengthwise
3-4 fresh rosemary sprigs
7-8 fresh thyme sprigs
2 tsp Greek wild dried oregano
Freshly ground black pepper
Juice of 2 lemons, freshly squeezed
150 ml extra virgin olive oil
250-300 ml water

Special equipment: roasting pan, large enough to hold the lamb and the potatoes

Preheat your oven to 180°C.

Place the lamb in the roasting pan and using your hands, smear the whole lamb with the mustard. Then score its flesh on 8-9 different places (bottom and top of the shoulder), making small incisions that will fit the pieces of the garlic clove quarters. Squeeze each garlic clove-quarter into each incision with your thumb and scatter the rest of the garlic cloves on the roasting pan together with the six whole garlic cloves.
Arrange the potato wedges around the lamb, in one layer. Sprinkle the lamb and the potatoes with salt, black pepper and dried oregano on all sides and add the rosemary and thyme sprigs to the pan.
Drizzle with the olive oil and add the lemon juice over the lamb and potatoes.
Add the water on the bottom of the roasting pan and jiggle the pan around to mix the liquids. You want to add so much water so that it comes up 2/3 up the potatoes.
Place the pan on the low rack of the preheated oven and roast for 30 minutes. Then lower the heat to 150°C and roast for 1 hour. Finally, turn the heat up to 165°C and roast for 1 hour and 45 minutes until the lamb is fork tender. Make sure to turn the potatoes (being careful not to break them up) halfway though the total baking time, and check from time to time to see whether the potatoes need more water. You certainly don’t want them to dry out. Also, what’s very important is that every 1 hour you baste the lamb, which essentially means that you take with a large spoon juices from the pan and pour them over the lamb (do this 4-5 times each time you baste). This helps to keep it moist and adds more flavor to it.

Remove the pan from the oven, allow to stand for 10 minutes and then serve. Enjoy!!

Aaaand if you are obsessed with garlic like I am, then after those 3 hours, you will get to eat the most delicious, juicy and sweet garlic ever. Remember those six whole garlic cloves in their skins that you added in the pan? Well take them out, press with your fingers gently the skin to reveal that amazing goodness and dig in!