Ideas for a special lamb dish
December 29, 2008 3:28 PM   Subscribe

Delicious and not-too-difficult recipes with lamb, please?

My husband loves lamb. I would like to make him a lamb dish for his birthday. I'm a pretty accomplished cook but don't do a lot of red meat and have never made anything with lamb. I'm looking for a great special recipe that is somewhat forgiving in terms of needing to be timed perfectly or cooked to an exactitude that I, as an only occasional meat chef, can attain. Also, no grilling. I have a great butcher nearby and access to all sorts of fancy ingredients.
posted by otherwordlyglow to Food & Drink (22 answers total) 22 users marked this as a favorite
Osso bucco style lamb shanks are the way to go. You will need to start cooking in the morning in order to have it done by dinner time. It is relatively simple and delicious. There are dozens of recipes for this on google, so I'd recommend finding one version that you think he'd like best.

They will all be good recipes.
posted by Pants! at 3:43 PM on December 29, 2008

If you've got enough people coming to the birthday to use a leg of lamb, this recipe for "Lamb with coffee and cream" is delicious and easy.
posted by slightlybewildered at 3:44 PM on December 29, 2008

(on the other hand, if you have left-over lamb, you can make a proper shepherd's pie the next day - the best part of a roast lamb dinner!)
posted by slightlybewildered at 3:46 PM on December 29, 2008

Response by poster: I was hoping to find something do-able in 3-4 hours.
It'll just be the two of us, though leftover would be fine.
posted by otherwordlyglow at 3:50 PM on December 29, 2008

Best answer: Rack of lamb is really, REALLY easy, is perfect for two people, and is totally sexy. Get a single rack from a small lamb, like eight bones for a total weight of one pound. Ask the butcher to french it (clean up the meat between the ribs, making it prettier and easier to carve later) and trim most of the fat. Cut it in half when you get home.

Salt and pepper it on all sides of the meat. Heat up a cast-iron or other heavy oven-safe pan and just a little oil until hot enough for the oil to shimmer. Sear the lamb off on both sides until it has some nice color (don't poke or turn from one side to another until it releases easily from the pan).

Now, choose the flavors you want - a paste of garlic and provencal-ish herbs (thyme and rosemary are nice) is classic and delicious. Maybe add a little lemon zest. Rub it on the fat sides of the lamb racks. Kind of prop the racks up on each other by interlacing the rib bones, so the racks are standing up on the bottom edge of the meat portion. Stick in a hot (425 degree) preheated oven; turn the temperature down to 350 after 10 minutes. Continue cooking until your instant-read thermometer reads 130 F for an eventual perfect medium rare.

Let the meat rest, loosely covered with foil, on a cutting board or plate for 5-10 minutes. Halve the racks again into two-bone sections. Plate them, crossed prettily and cut-sides up, on some smashed potatoes, or (my favorite) salt-roasted fingerlings. Add a slow-roasted plum tomato to the plate, maybe a little tangle of something green if you want. Garnish. Serve.
posted by peachfuzz at 3:53 PM on December 29, 2008 [2 favorites]

Here's the "Special occasion" section of the New Zealand Beef and Lamb Board recipes site - it has some good looking recipes for various cuts of lamb. These Pinenut and Rosemary crusted lamb racks look pretty good.
posted by slightlybewildered at 4:05 PM on December 29, 2008

Braise! It's culinary transubstantiation, turning tough meat (like lamb) into juicy, tender, gastronomic Jesus.

Super simple, super delicious: rub a leg, shank, or shoulder of lamb with salt, pepper, chopped garlic, and thyme.

Heat a large pot with 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil, and brown the meat on all sides. Add half a liter of cheap red wine, some chopped onions, and a few whole sprigs of rosemary.

Cover, and transfer to a 300 F oven for 2 & 1/2 hours, then uncover and return to oven until fork tender (probably another hour). Remove the rosemary and the lamb, set the meat aside.

Skim some of the fat that has risen to the top of the braising liquid, mix a bit of flour into it, and re-incorporate it into the juice, thereby turning it into a thickened and emulsified sauce.

Goes well with a fruity red wine like a syrah or a crisp, slightly hoppy beer like Anchor Steam.
posted by Jon_Evil at 4:07 PM on December 29, 2008 [1 favorite]


Get the oven very hot. 425F/225C kind of hot.

While you are doing this, take a leg of lamb, a handful of garlic cloves cut into decent sized slivers, and a bottle of red wine. (Syrah or Merlot should do nicely, a Cab might be too strong) Take the lamb joint and poke it all over with a paring knife. You want to make little slits in the meat, into which you tuck a garlic sliver. Do this until you think the meat will be garlicky enough. Splash a bit of wine all over the meat. About a third of the bottle, depending on how large the joint is. Season the joint. Put it in your very hot oven, and immediately turn the heat down to a more medium temperature. I'd say 350F/190C. Occasionally baste the joint with the red wine. Serve with mash, couscous, or even hummous and tzatziki. Or even boiled potatoes and veg. Simple and delicious.
posted by Grrlscout at 4:15 PM on December 29, 2008 [1 favorite]

I don't cook much meat either, but served Herb-Coated Lamb with Port-Red Wine Sauce for Christmas dinner. It was easy and delicious, especially with the wine sauce. (I used a leg of lamb instead of the rack of lamb as specified -- it just took a bit longer to cook through.)
posted by kittydelsol at 4:16 PM on December 29, 2008

After thinking about it some more, I think the braise/casserole idea is probably best - lovely and tender, and you don't have to worry about cooking a roast or rack or steak to the perfect shade of pink.
posted by slightlybewildered at 4:16 PM on December 29, 2008

My fiancee made this for me last night, out of the Bon Appetit fresh and easy cookbook (green cover). It was delicious, and pretty easy.

Grilled spiced lamb chops with cucumber-mint sauce

Lamb loin chops
2-3 tablespoons red curry paste
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 cup plain yogurt
1 cup dicded seeded peeled cucumbers
3 chopped fresh mint

Prepare BBQ or preheat brioler. Brush lamb on all sides with curry paste. Let stand 15 minutes.

Toast cumin seeds in small skillet over medium heat 1 minute. Place seeds in resealable plastic bag; crush coarsely with rolling pin. Mix cumin, yogurt, cucumber, and mint in small bowl.

Grill or broil lamb chops until charred on outside and pink inside, about 3 minutes per side. Serve with cucumber-mint sauce on side.

With a little basmati rice, it's delicious.
posted by SNWidget at 4:34 PM on December 29, 2008

I made Nigella Lawson's Lamb and Date Tagine over Christmas and it was The Best Lamb we've ever eaten.

I don't have a tagine so used a cast iron lidded casserole dish instead. Served with mashed potatoes, roast parsnips and steamed green beans, it was waaaay better than the roast turkey on Christmas day.
posted by ceri richard at 4:36 PM on December 29, 2008

Nice rack-of-lamb trick from Anne Burrell's show: french out every other bone completely, so that when you carve it you get double-thick chops with just one bone.
posted by nicwolff at 4:37 PM on December 29, 2008

I want to second the suggestions for braising shanks or osso bucco. It might depend on the recipe you are using and the quantities, but I've never spent more than three or four hours making this sort of thing, so it should be doable in your timeframe.

This "cooking for engineers" recipe for osso bucco is one of the clearest I've seen (it calls for veal, but will work fine with lamb); I think that one of Bittman's Minimalist cookbooks also has a nice version.
posted by Forktine at 4:43 PM on December 29, 2008

I made a wonderful lamb stew once, which called for using butternut squash instead of the more traditional potatoes. For two people, with leftovers, you need:

2 pounds lamb, cut into 1-1/2 inch chunks
1 diced onion
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup white wine
1-1/2 cups chicken broth
1 bay leaf
1 sprig rosemary
1 Tablespoon chopped rosemary
1 chopped tomato
1 small butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cubed

Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a heavy casserole dish with a lid. Season the lamb with a little salt and brown it in the casserole (do it 1 pound at a time if you're in danger of crowding the dish). Remove meat, add onion and saute for 5 minutes. Add garlic and cook 1 minute more. Add wine and let it bubble a minute or so, then add the broth, bay leaf, and rosemary and bring to a boil. Turn down the heat to low, add the lamb back to the dish and add the chopped tomato. Cover and simmer 2 hours. Skim off the excess fat, take out the bay leaf and the rosemary sprig (some of the leaves will have cooked right off, and that's the whole point), add the squash and chopped rosemary and cook another 20 minutes, until the squash is tender. Serve over rice or pasta.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 5:05 PM on December 29, 2008 [1 favorite]

This Jamie Oliver recipe for 'Pappardelle with Amazing Slow Cooked Meat' gets a swoon from my boyfriend every time. If I am feeling up to it, I make the pasta myself; otherwise, buy good quality fresh pasta. Oh, it can be made with many sorts of meat, but I usually make it with lamb shanks (two is about the right amount for the amount required in the recipe). It takes a couple of hours on the stove, but once it is on, there is nothing left to do (unless you are making the pasta - in which case, you've got that to get on with!)

Some may feel that pasta is not a special occasion dish, but because of the longer cooking time, this isn't really one I whip up during the week, so it is special. Also, he is big meat eater, but the flavour of this is just superb. Serve with a glass of good red wine. For bonus points, a good dessert - creme brulee works well for me (the Cooking for Engineers recipe works well, but I halve it as I have small ramekins and I think we shouldn't eat too much of it!).
posted by AnnaRat at 5:09 PM on December 29, 2008 [1 favorite]

Mmmmm, all of these sound delicious. As if you needed one more to choose from! This recipe from Everyday Food is so, so easy and so, so good.

(And - if you're a luddite like me who doesn't own a food processor, I can assure you that it works just as well if you just chop up the garlic with the herbs and spices to make a paste.)
posted by chez shoes at 5:21 PM on December 29, 2008

Restaurateur Danny Meyer just wrote up this super-simple lamb recipe in the New York Times. I read the article and thought it sounded tasty AND easy.
posted by plasticbugs at 6:03 PM on December 29, 2008

My favourites are:

Fry lamb shanks in a pan until brown, throw into a pot with some stock, garlic, salt & pepper, add a little fresh rosemary and the juice and zest of at least one lemon. Cook for 2-3 hours (until the lamb is falling off the bone). Remove shanks from pot, taste pot juices and adjust seasoning. Thicken with a little cornflour if necessary and pour over shanks. Best served over rich polenta, risotto or a really good potato mash.


Get some lamb cutlets (frenched is good) allowing three per person, pound flat with a mallet or heavy saucepan. Flour, dip in beaten egg and breadcrumb, and cook in a butter/oil mix until golden. Season the flour with garlic salt and pepper for extra oomph. Serve with just about anything, but some good mustard is excellent with the cutlets.


Sear cutlets over high heat for a minute each side, set aside in warm oven. Deglaze pan with water or stock, add a bit of wasabi (tube is fine), and a knob of butter. Pour juices bubbling over the cutlets.
posted by ninazer0 at 7:28 PM on December 29, 2008

Oh, with the shanks, instead of stock you can use beer but make sure it isn't a bitter.
posted by ninazer0 at 7:30 PM on December 29, 2008

I dust chops with Madras Curry Powder then sear them in my grill pan with onions and red bell pepper. In the meantime, I make some couscous using chicken broth with some saffron and raisins in it for the liquid. Heating up the raisins with the liquid softens them. I fry some shallot, then saute the couscous, pilaf style, and add the liquid. I dump the finished couscous out into a platter and arrange the chops, onions, and peppers in the center and sprinkle some slivered almonds over the whole thing. Very easy, fast, and pretty.
posted by Foam Pants at 11:03 PM on December 29, 2008

Uzbek plov is delicious, though cooking the rice properly is tricky. This recipe looks about right, with a few exceptions: use lamb chunks for the meat and lamb fat instead of oil if you can, and add in barberries (zereshk) if you can find them. (FXCuisine wrote about Uzbek plov, but see the comments for why they did it wrong.)
posted by parudox at 11:34 PM on December 29, 2008

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