Some things are easy. Easter dinner? Lamb. Best place to find a great lamb recipe? An outstanding Irish author and teacher: Darina Allen.
Darina’s newest book, 30 Years at Ballymaloe, is a celebration and tribute to her Irish cooking school that long ago achieved world status. This recipe comes from a long time staff member of the school, Rory O’Connell. Rory relates that lamb shoulder used to be considered an inferior meat. Now shoulder is recognized as being as “prime” as any other part of the animal. It’s just that the shoulder requires some care in preparation: long cooking until it literally falls off the bone which creates, for you, a main course of substance.
With the preparation techniques here, the dish is not “lamby” or greasy. It bears the distinctive flavor of lamb but with all the “this is great meat” attributes of, say, a marvelous steak.
The recipe calls for two accompanying sauces, an aioli that is finished with the juices of he cooked meat and a salsa verde that is oh so carefully crafted. The leaves of the green ingredients are chopped not too small and not too large. The goal is to have a sauce with no leafy parts that hang up in your mouth. But the leafy components must still be individually large enough so as you chew you pick up the singular flavors of arugula, parsley, and mint. It’s a brilliant idea and gives the sauce a pulsating spectrum of flavors that are grand with the lamb.
You can put this recipe on your calendar for next spring, next Easter. Or, you can remember that spring only arrived a few days ago. There are still 11 weeks of spring and spring lamb and many opportunities for you to enjoy this powerful recipe.
Slow Roast Shoulder of Lamb with Aioli and Salsa Verde
Yield: serves 8-10
- 1 whole shoulder of lamb on the bone, weighing about 8 pounds
- Maldon sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
For the aioli:
- 6 large tablespoons homemade mayonnaise
- 2 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed to a paste
For the salsa verde:
- 1 bunch of arugula, about 3 ½ ounces
- 1 bunch of flat-leaf parsley, about 3 ½ ounces
- 6 large sprigs of mint
- 6 sprigs of tarragon
- 1 tablespoon capers, coarsely chopped
- 2 large garlic cloves, peeled and crushed to a smooth paste
- 8 anchovies, very finely chopped
- 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
- 1 cup olive oil
- Freshly grated zest of 1 lemon plus a little juice
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Put the lamb shoulder in a wide roasting pan, skin-side up. Score the skin several times to encourage the fat to run out during the cooking and to crisp up the skin. Season with salt and pepper. Roast in the oven for 30 minutes, then reduce the temperature to 325°F and continue to cook for another 3 ½ hours, or until the meat is failing off the bone.
While the lamb is cooking, make the salsa verde. Remove the stems from the arugula and herbs and discard. Chop the leaves to a texture halfway between coarse and fine, so that the individual flavors of the herbs stand out in the finished sauce. Put the chopped herbs in a small bowl and stir in the remaining ingredients for the salsa.
It is unlikely that the salsa will need salt, because the anchovies are already quite salty, but very occasionally a pinch might be needed. Taste and correct correct the seasoning, if necessary, adding a little lemon juice if you want to sharpen up the salsa. Chill until ready to serve.
The crushed garlic can be mixed into the mayonnaise for the aioli; however, this sauce cannot be finished until you have the juices from cooked lamb.
To test if the lamb is cooked to a melting tenderness, pull the shank bone: if it is ready, some of the meat should come away easily from the bone. When the lamb is cooked, remove it from the oven and transfer to a serving plate, covered with foil, to keep warm in a low oven (250°F). There will be plenty of fatty cooking juices in the roasting pan. Strain these through a strainer into a glass bowl or measuring cup and set aside for a few minutes, until the fat has risen to the surface. Skim off the fat carefully and thoroughly with a large spoon.
To finish the aioli, add 4-6 tablespoons of the degreased cooking juices to the garlicky mayonnaise and stir well to achieve a consistency similar to softly whipped cream—the mayonnaise should now just lightly coat the back of a spoon. Taste and correct the seasoning if necessary.
Pour the remaining degreased cooking juices into a small pan, bring to a boil, and season to taste.
To serve the lamb, remove the meat from the bone in largish pieces using a pair of tongs or a serving fork. Divide the meat between hot serving plates, drizzle some of the hot cooking juices over the top, and accompany with the salsa verde and aioli.
Source: 30 Years at Ballmaloe by Darina Allen
Photo Information [top picture]: Canon T2i, EFS 60 mm Macro Lens, F/4.5 for 1/10th second at ISO-3200