Lamb is a favorite at my house. Fortuitously, lamb is also this week’s selection to celebrate spring holidays as Cook the Book Fridays cooks through the last spring season from David Lebovitz’s My Paris Kitchen. This week’s recipe covers the full menu: Roast Lamb with Braised Vegetables and Salsa Verde.
Sourcing the lamb shoulder was a bit challenging. These days, according to the butcher at several local grocery chains, most lamb comes in pre-packaged. That means instead of a whole shoulder, the store is shipped packages of shoulder chops. Just as I decided we would butterfly and grill a leg of lamb instead and only follow the recipe for the braised vegetables and salsa verde, my ever-resourceful husband located a whole lamb shoulder at a more urban meat market not too far away.
Our whole shoulder had some extra bony parts that needed to be separated (we think it was the top part of the ribs). They aren’t very meaty but will add lots of flavor to a lamb stock – coming to my kitchen some time soon.
This dinner was very easy to put together – and impressive enough for company. Slits in the lamb are stuffed with garlic and anchovies before roasting the lamb for a few hours in a pan with white wine to keep things moist. I felt I could have used much less liquid for the same effect. The toughest part was carefully flipping the lamb twice without not having it splash down into its wine bath, making a big mess.
While the lamb roasts, we cut up a variety of vegetables to braise in butter and water (I was out of chicken stock). Baby potatoes, carrot rounds, parsnip batons and turnip wedges cooked with some sautéed shallots and sprigs of thyme. I usually steam or roast my vegetables, so I was happy to learn this easy and delicious technique.
While the lamb roasts, I also put together the salsa verde. You can use any variety of herbs. I used parsley, sage, tarragon and oregano (the last two from my herb garden). Lemon zest, green olives, capers, garlic, more shallot and a large dose of olive oil complement the herbs to create a lovely sauce.
When everything is done, this is served in shallow bowls: vegetables and their flavorful liquid provide the base for chunks of tender lamb. Each guest can spoon salsa verde over the lamb and vegetables to taste.
We enjoyed this one though I’m more likely to repeat the braised vegetables or the salsa verde than the roast lamb shoulder. This time around, I skipped the Panisse Puffs which were a spectacular failure when I made them back in July 2017. With leftovers, I might try to make socca – chickpea pancakes – to sop up the tasty juices.
The lamb meal was much more successful that last week’s Salmon Burgers from Dorie Greenspan’s newest book Everyday Dorie. It’s not that we didn’t like the burgers exactly, but we felt like there are better uses for fresh wild salmon. The flavors and texture were nice enough, but when salmon is $17 a pound, I’d much rather eat that fillet grilled. I think we’d have liked these just as much if I’d used canned wild salmon. I might even try that another time.
I sautéed the first batch of burgers in a non-stick cast-iron grill pan where it stuck in all the grooves. That happens with everything I cook in that pan, not sure why. For the second batch, I switched to my cast-iron skillet with much better results — more surface area to sear plus no sticking.
I forgot to make the pickled onions, but the burgers tasted good on Martin’s potato rolls topped with sliced avocado with the recommended cole slaw on the side.
The salmon burgers were good, just not good enough to repeat with fresh salmon.
The lamb recipe can be found on page 203 of David Lebovitz’s My Paris Kitchen and the salmon burgers are on page 174 of Everyday Dorie. If you’re curious what the other members of Cook the Book Fridays thought of these recipes, check out their posts following links for lamb here and salmon burgers here.
Anyone who has followed my blog for a while is aware of some of the challenges I face with certain ingredient combinations. To keep the peace, my husband has several food rules that I try to follow. “No fruit or dried fruit in a savory dish” is one of them. When I looked over this week’s recipe for Cook the Book Fridays, Lamb Shank Tagine, I couldn’t come up with a decent substitution for the apricots and raisins featured in the sauce. Then I remembered that Howard has eaten a lamb stew that my sister-in-law made, one that had dried apricots. He didn’t complain (which he would have), so I thought it was worth taking the chance.
The tagine takes a long time to cook, but most of that time is hands off. The lamb needs to marinate overnight in a fragrant spice paste, so some advanced planning is necessary. First, the marinated lamb shanks are browned, then the aromatics (onions, and garlic and bay leaf) are cooked. A pinch of saffron adds color and flavor to the pot. Finally, some liquid for braising: water, diced tomatoes, and bit of honey. After an hour in the oven, the lamb is flipped over, and half of the dry fruit added to the pot. It cooks for another hour. Then the remaining dried fruit is added, and the uncovered pot continues to cook, allowing the sauce to thicken up.
During the long cook time, I left the house a few times. On returning, the aroma was wonderful.
When the tagine was ready, the lamb was tender and falling off the bone. I served the tagine with the recommended Lemon-pistachio couscous.
For the couscous, I used oil-cured olives instead of the dried fruit. This side dish comes together easily by stirring cooked Israeli couscous into an array of wonderfully flavorful Mediterranean ingredients: preserved lemon, pistachios, the previously mentioned olives, parsley, butter, and a touch of cinnamon. I didn’t properly account for my olive substitution, so it was a little on the salty side, but delicious nonetheless.
As for the tagine, I loved the tender meat, but found the fruit and honey sweetened the sauce too much. The sauce didn’t thicken that much, and unfortunately (and surprisingly) the saffron flavor didn’t come through. I plan to tweak this one, keeping some of the fruit but looking at other recipes get ideas for more savory additions to the sauce.
What did Howard think? His empty bowl says it all.
You can find the tagine recipe on page 199 of David Lebovitz’s My Paris Kitchen. The couscous recipe is on page 237 of the same book. You can also see what my Cook the Book Fridays friends thought of this recipe by following their links here.
After the third Nor’easter in three weeks, here’s the snow pile in one of town’s parking lots. Impressive!