Braised Lamb Shoulder with Onions
Several pounds of lamb shoulder (with the bone)
2-3 large onions, depending on the size of your pan
As many cloves of garlic as you can possible handle
Salt and Pepper
½ cup of water (divided)
This dish is all about prep work and starting early. Do not attempt to make this dish half an hour before dinner. Lamb shoulder is a tough but immensely flavorful piece of meat that will turn fork-tender for you if you allow it enough time to cook. This makes an elegant dish that is suitable for company or a holiday dinner. We enjoyed it for New Years Eve with company. Plan at least 3-4 hours in the oven, and at least half an hour of prep time. This would be perfect for a crock pot, but I like to use my large 4-quart covered casserole dish in the oven because it makes the house smell so good.
MEAT: In a large, heavy-bottomed frying pan, fry the lamb shoulders in generous amount of olive oil over medium-high heat. The purpose of this is to get them nicely browned on both sides. As they finish browning, lay them into the casserole dish. When all of the shoulders have been browned, pour ¼ cup of water into the pan and use a spatula or flat whisk to scrape all the browned bits off the bottom, making a flavorful broth. Pour this over the meat in the casserole.
ONIONS: For those in a hurry, it is perfectly acceptable to simply slice the onions, brown them a bit in olive oil, and dump them over the meat. Make sure to rinse out the pan and scrape up the brown bits to add to the casserole dish. For company, I like to take a little more time with my onions. I slice off the tops, and carefully peel down and remove the skins, leaving the root end intact. I then lay the flat side of the onion (the top you sliced off) on the cutting board and carefully quarter the onion, slicing through the root end each time, so that the onion quarters don’t fall apart. The root end, if you are careful, will hold them together. Heat some olive oil in the frying pan and carefully lay the quarters in the oil (cut side down). Give them time to get a nice brown on them, and then carefully turn them to brown their other cut side with a spatula. Gently place them in the casserole, on top of and around the meat. Make sure to rinse out the pan with ¼ cup of water and add the onion “broth” to the casserole.
SEASONINGS: I add rosemary (at least ½ tablespoon). I have a rosemary bush so I usually add two sprigs that are at least 4 inches long. Also toss in several cloves of garlic (5-10, depending on how much you love garlic.) Make sure the garlic is around the sides of the meat, or touching the bottom of the pan. Salt and pepper the meat to taste, and place in a low oven (300 degrees Fahrenheit) for at least 3-4 hours. Or you could put it into a crock pot on low in the morning, and it will be ready for you by dinner time. The meat is done when you poke it with a fork and it falls apart.
OPTIONAL: We are on a yeast diet, so are avoiding fungus. However, you could add whole or quartered mushrooms to the dish or any other vegetables that you like, such as carrots.This dish produces a tremendous amount of meaty-flavored broth. It is lovely served with bean and turnip mash, onion torte, and a fresh green salad. (Note- while turnpis were recently moved from the SCD legal to SCD illegal list, many people report eating them with no trouble. This seems to be issue of personal choice).
Navy Bean and Turnip Mash:Rinse, pick over, soak overnight, and drain 2 or 3 cups of navy beans. Boil them in heavily salted water until very tender/mushy (at least an hour to an hour and a half). Peel and quarter several turnips, so that you can have equal parts beans and turnips. This is no rocket science, just eyeball it. Boil the turnips and 3 or 4 cloves of garlic in heavily salted water until very tender. (Note: if you are using canned navy beans, you may be able to simply drain the beans, and then boil them along with the turnips.) Drain the beans and turnips and garlic, and process them in a food processor with lots of butter and fresh herbs (I used parsley, oregano, and some thyme that we had growing in my mom’s herb garden). I had to do mine in batches because it made so much. Add salt and pepper to taste. Serve by making mountains of the mash and then forming a crater with your fork to fill with the meat juice.