Lamb is my absolute favorite meat. Its assertive, instantly recognizable flavor is one of my most favorite culinary joys. Since it’s only enjoyed on special occasions, that makes all the more enjoyable when I do have it.
Because of the strong flavor of lamb, you can use other strong flavors without fear of overwhelming it. Rosemary, garlic, juniper berries, black pepper are all quite robust on their own, and when combined together in a lamb dish, they become harmoniously blended into the background with the lamb taking the lead on the dish.
This is not really a meal for guests, special as it is. There is no elegance to eating this beautiful piece of meat. Portions are almost impossible to divide evenly, and once the rich smell of the lamb wafts up from the serving platter, all thoughts of graceful eating, silverware and manners are… well lets say all bets are off. Also, as large as the piece is, it will only feed six to eight people.
Luckily, braising a lamb shoulder is a fairly straightforward process. You prepare the meat, season it and cook it. In order to make it fit in the pan, I separated the neck from the shoulder and trimmed the bottom of the meat off, which is the breast of the lamb. Not the breast cut, which is the bottom half of the rib section, rather the breast bones (sternum).
Lamb Shoulder Cut Overview
This is the inside view of the lamb shoulder. The green lines represent the cuts that I made to trim the meat so it fit into the pan.
Preparing the Meat
The meat was scored to allow the seasoning to penetrate the meat.
Seasoning the Meat
I filled the pan with onions, garlic, garlic stems, crushed black pepper, and crushed juniper berries. I seasoned the meat with salt and poured half a bottle of dry red wine. I covered it tightly and cooked it at 190°C (375°F) for three hours. Turn the lamb once every hour.
Separating the Joints
The shoulder chops were removed first, then the arm and shoulder were separated at the joint where the arm bone meets the paddle bone or shoulder blade.
Ready to Eat
Shoulder chops. They don't have the same piece of ribeye meat as rib chops, but they're still delicious.
The juices in the pan were poured into a medium saucepan and reduced to give a huge blast of flavor when poured over the cooked meat. The only thing missing were rolls to soak up the juices.
One last note: depending on your butchering skills and the age of the lamb, you can break this piece down into cuts suitable for grilling.