Oh Little Lamb We're Going to Eat, How Best to Fake a Braise?
December 23, 2011 2:42 PM   Subscribe

My Christmas dining partners have requested a lamb dish for the feast. The recipe they want is for braised lamb shanks. What we have are 2 4-lb. boneless leg roasts. Please help me tweak this to find a similar flavor profile!

Here's the recipe:

I've braised many a shank, easily, but have never worked with a boneless leg roast. Not sure how to get something similar, since it seems like most of the taste will come from the braising. Any suggestions on how to accomplish this? Thanks so much!
posted by cyndigo to Food & Drink (9 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Googling "braised leg of lamb" turns up gazillions of recipes for exactly that. I don't know if I have braised leg of lamb or not; I've braised all sorts of other cuts, and have turned leg of lamb into stew a few times, and I can't think of any reason it wouldn't work.
posted by Forktine at 2:50 PM on December 23, 2011

Forktine, you're brilliant!

I've been googling for "boneless leg of lamb" and just coming up with roasts, most of them stuffed with something.
posted by cyndigo at 2:55 PM on December 23, 2011

But, this from chowhound:

Please don't braise a leg of lamb - the meat is too delicate/aristocratic for that treatment. Braising has a purpose - to tenderize a tough cut of meat.(shank gets a lot of movement so it's a very strong muscle)

A leg of lamb tastes so very good when it's nice and tender and very rare. I have a little electric rotisserie and it makes perfect rare butterflied leg of lamb. But you could bake it in the oven too.

So has anyone braised a leg, and can you report the results, please?
posted by cyndigo at 2:59 PM on December 23, 2011

What follows below is from the 1976 print of Marcella Hazan's The Classic Italian Cookbook, page 280 (link is to a 1989 paperback). I haven't tried it yet; it was in the running for Christmas dinner, but lost out to her recipe for a pork loin braised in milk (seriously and wonderful, page 284). Whenever I've braised lamb in the past, I have used shanks, and hadn't thought of braising a roast before stumbling upon this recipe.

For 4 persons:

2.5 lbs leg of lamb, preferable butt end, bone in (you'll be fine with boneless I'm sure)
1 tablespoon chopped carrot
2 tablespoons chopped yellow onion
1 tablespoon chopped celery
1 cup dry white wine
2 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
1/2 teaspoon rosemary leaves (dry would be fine, I'd probably use a good teaspoon)
1.5 teaspoons juniper berries
2 teaspoons salt
Ground pepper (~ 4 to 6 twists of a pepper mill)

Put all ingredients into a heavy casserole. Cover and cook on top of stove at low heat for 2 hours, turning meat every 45 minutes. (I'm guessing she means at a slow simmer.)

Lamb should have thrown off a bit of liquid. Set cover askew, and cook for another 1.5 hours at slightly higher heat. (I interpret this to mean to continue a slow simmer; with the top slightly open, you'd need to raise the temperature to maintain the simmer.)

The meat should now be very tender at the prick of a fork. If there is still too much liquid, uncover completely, raise the heat to high, and boil it until it is a little more concentrated. At the end, the meat must be a rich brown color.

Off heat, tilt the casserole and draw off as much of the fat as you can with a spoon. If you are not serving the roast immediately, do not degrease until after you have reheated it.


I would think that, if you prefer the flavor combinations of your shank braising recipe, you could adapt it to your roast using the logic above.

Happy eating!
posted by cool breeze at 3:03 PM on December 23, 2011 [1 favorite]

I don't think leg of lamb is really all that aristocratic (it is a working muscle, after all), but if you were really concerned about that all you'd have to do is put the meat in after the liquid and the sofrito have been simmering for a while. I really don't think that this is the case, though; I'd personally be entirely comfortable just tossing in the leg and letting it braise away in the oven.
posted by Forktine at 3:24 PM on December 23, 2011

Aristocratic or no, a roast leg of lamb that's still rare in the middle is a little bit of heaven on earth. An alternative I'd suggest would be for you to prepare your recipe as above, and then instead of returning the seared meat to the pan with the vegetables, leave it aside and finish it by itself in the oven - and then serve the braise/vegetable mixture alongside the roasted meat when it comes out of the oven. That way you would get the best of both worlds - the flavor of the braise, and the texture of roasted leg of lamb.
posted by amy lecteur at 3:33 PM on December 23, 2011 [1 favorite]

I slow-roasted a boneless leg of lamb last year at Christmas for a party that included avowed lamb-haters.

I'd normally just roast it and eat it still fairly pink, but I know that's not to everyone's taste. I stabbed it all over, studded the stab holes with pieces of garlic (lots of garlic) and sprigs of rosemary, then marinaded it for a few hours in olive oil, lemon zest & juice, a little balsamic vinegar (or soy sauce), salt, pepper and lots of thyme. You can also add mint, if you like. I know mint and lamb are meant to go together but I find it too overpowering.

I seared it all over in a cast-iron skillet, then cooked it on a low-ish heat in one of these lidded metal roasters until it was tender and delicious. Even the haters loved it.
posted by essexjan at 3:51 PM on December 23, 2011

This is an excellent boneless leg of lamb recipe by Gordon Ramsay. It roasts for about 45 minutes to an hour, depending on which of the mentioned methods you choose. 200C is about 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
posted by TryTheTilapia at 4:07 PM on December 23, 2011 [1 favorite]

Thanks for all the suggestions! It came out OK, but in the future I'll stick to roasting roasts and save the braising for shanks.
posted by cyndigo at 2:46 PM on December 26, 2011

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