18 November 2007

A Shoulder of Lamb

Other than the big four - Chicken, Duck, Beef and Pork, I've hardly tried cooking any other meats. So when I go to the market, I hesitate approaching mutton and lamb sellers for fear of getting cheated. I can't tell my mutton from my lamb and looking rather inexperienced, I won't be surprised if I've already been fleeced of a tidy sum of money. I've stopped going to the market for lamb or mutton, more because I'm a little paranoid about how the meat had been treated than being worried about my purse strings.

So I look elsewhere for my lamb. Green Grocer of course had a variety of cuts. Maybe it is because I have a penchant for all things very small (yes, certain parts of me could afford to be smaller too), among the variety of meats and cuts, I was lured to the mini lamb shoulder roasts. However, seeing how it was pre-marinated, I opted for the Grain-fed Lamb Shoulder Roast instead. If I was going to roast a lamb, I wanted to do it properly without cutting any corners. The pre-marinated version would come in handy for lazy days, but then again if I'm lazy I'm unlikely to even bother popping the lamb into the oven for about an hour, which is how long mine took me.

While diligently researching for a reliable way of cooking the lamb shoulder, I must admit I contemplated using it for another recipe that didn't call for lamb shoulder, until I felicitously spotted a recipe in Damien Pignolet's French. It used easily accessible ingredients and wasn't at all fussy. While time consuming, all the time is just in the waiting. Between popping the lamb shoulder in and until the lamb was medium done, I had sufficient time to prepare a whole pot of veal stock (which of course also required little effort), and slowly concoct an Asian salad dressing just because I was feeling inspired.

I used to shy away from preparing lamb using any method other than stewing simply because I felt that achieving the perfect doneness would be a huge challenge. The traditional press-test is not the most reliable (I really think I have artificially tough palm flesh, being a tennis player) and it is almost impossible trying to determine how pink the juices of the lamb is against the very unhelpful grey background of my roasting pan.

But armed with my meat thermometer, I felt invincible! It was simply a matter of sticking the tip into the thickest part of the meat and watching the needle steadily creep up to 70 degrees celcius. And for anybody trying to roast a lamb for the first time, this recipe would be as good as any to start with. The caramelised garlic was mushily sweet, while the chopped parsley was a refreshing interlude amidst mouthfuls of gamey lamb.

As the Grain-fed Lamb Shoulder from Green Grocer came wrapped in some elastic-twine netting, I just had to slip it off for the stuffing, then reuse the netting for the cooking process. It certainly saved me the hassle of buying twine. So if you have twine and a meat thermometer, you're already two-thirds of the journey towards a delicious Roasted Lamb Shoulder stuffed with Garlic and Parsley.

Roast Lamb Shoulder with Confit Garlic, Parsley and Herbes de Provence
From Damien Pignolet’s French
Serves 4 Yuan Family Members or 6-8 normal appetites

15 cloves garlic, unpeeled
Olive oil
4 bunches curly-leaf parsley, leaves plucked and washed
2 boned shoulders of lamb, without necks – about 450g each
salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tsps herbs de Provence
300ml chicken stock or water (I used veal stock)
½ bunch curly-leaf parsley, finely chopped

Put unpeeled garlic into small saucepan, adding enough olive oil to cover and slowly heat, using a thermometer to check the temperature: try to maintain oil at 70 degrees celcius (I think 60-65 would be sufficient) until the garlic is soft, about 30-40 mins.

It is important that they do not begin to fry. Set aside. When cool, drain and peel the garlic, reserving the oil [which may be used within 2 days for sautéing potatoes].

Blanch the parsley leaves in boiling salted water for a few minutes until soft. Drain and refresh in cold water then squeeze dry and chop roughly. Set aside.

Lay the lamb shoulders skin-side down on a bench. Scatter lightly with salt, pepper and herbs. Distribute the garlic cloves and parsley between the shoulders and roll up each into a neat sausage shape, securing with twine at 3cm intervals.

Preheat oven to 130 degress celcius. Heat 2 tbspns olive oil in a roasting tin and brown the seasoned shoulders over moderate heat then remove. Discard the fat in the pan, place a roasting/cake rack inside then put the lamb shoulders on top. Transfer to the oven and pour the stock into the tin.

Roast for about 1.5 hours or until the juices run faintly pink (or like in my case, until a meat thermometer inserted into the thickest section reads 70 degrees celcius). Check occasionally and add a little water if the stock has evaporated. Transfer to the warmed platter, loosely cover with foil and allow to rest for 20 mins (I skipped this step and nothing major happened).

Strain the stock into a small saucepan and bring to simmer, skimming to remove the fat. Remove the twine from the lamb and carve into 5mm-thick slices across the width of the shoulders.

To serve, moisten the meat with a little stock and scatter with the chopped parsley.


clumsy said...

I never think of the big four to include duck... with me it's chicken, beef, pork, and lamb. I actually don't think I've ever cooked duck even!

Your lamb looks divine however, even if you are not an old hand at cooking it!

faith said...

interesting lamb dish. maybe i could actually try this one. looks do-able *stares at hands surreptitiously*

Esther said...

Well done!

Anonymous said...

clumsy> Oh seriously? Braising duck is one of the easiest and one of the more satisfying dishes that I prepare! And thank you! the lamb was really, really good.

Anonymous said...

faith> Yes it is actually do-able! The recipe might look daunting, but it's really not all that difficult. I really thought it was easy!

Esther> thanks!

Eek the Cat said...

Hey Daffy...

So, have u tried any other recipes from the book? I've had it now for several months, however, I haven't made anything from it YET!.

But cool blog.

Anonymous said...

Hi, yes I have. I've made the serious orange cake and Eve's chocolate cake (both through Chubby Hubby's posts), and subsequently tried some of their recipes for sauces, stocks and desserts. They are generally good. The sweet shortcrust pastry for the apple tart was also good. Do try, I don't think you'll be disappointed!

Eek the cat said...

ok thanks for the heads up!

Also, is this a little too odd, but I am a foodie myself and I will be in S'pore on a stopover to Vietnam during the latter half of Jan, I was looking for fellow foodies to hang out with. Would it be weird to ask if u be interested? Or if you and your other foodie bloggers be interested? Hmm... i think that makes me sound less serial killerish!

BTW, my name is joyce and i'm currently living in Melb, Aust.

Anonymous said...

Hi Joyce! I'd be glad to show you around Singapore when you stop over. =) Lets converse through email: amoebamoron@gmail.com