Twelve-Hour Lamb Shoulder with Ras el Hanout

By • December 2, 2016 5 Comments

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Author Notes: The question I’m most often asked: “What is your favorite thing to cook?” My answer always seems too complex for such a simple inquiry. So I often do a nimble dodge: “Whatever I’m cooking in the moment is my favorite thing to cook.”

But between us, my favorite thing to eat is always this dish. Plan to start this dish a day or two before you plan to serve it. While the actual hands-on time is mere minutes, the success of the dish depends on a long and slow preparation.
Michelle McKenzie

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Serves 6 to 8

For the lamb:

  • One 4-pound bone-in lamb shoulder, patted dry
  • 2 tablespoons fine sea salt
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 cup ras el hanout (recipe follows)
  • 3 medium carrots, cut in half crosswise
  • 1 red onion, peeled and cut in half lengthwise
  • 1 fennel bulb, quartered
  • 1 head garlic, halved, or 3 stalks of green garlic, trimmed
  • 1 preserved lemon, halved lengthwise
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  1. Ideally you’ll prep the shoulder the night before you plan to cook; this pre-salting and pre-spicing is a dry brine, and it will lead to the best results. Place the shoulder in a roasting pan large enough to hold the lamb comfortably (not so tight the sides squeeze the meat; not so big that moisture will evaporate too quickly); the pan should be at least 2 inches deep. Salt the shoulder generously (approximately 2 tablespoons of fine sea salt), rub it in olive oil, and massage in the ras al hanout. Distribute the vegetables and aromatics—carrots, onion, fennel, garlic, preserved lemon—below and around the meat. Add a pat of butter on top. Cover and refrigerate overnight.
  2. Allow the meat to come to room temperature before roasting; this step is important and requires a few hours. Preheat the oven to 425° F. Roast the shoulder in this high heat for 20 minutes. Lower the oven temperature to 275° F. Add 2 cups of water to the pan and cover completely with a lid or double layer of aluminum foil. Cook the shoulder for 12 to 16 hours. You can baste the meat a few times, or you can leave it alone completely. Braises are wonderful in this way; they don’t ask for much.
  3. During the last hour of cooking, uncover the pan; this allows some remaining moisture to evaporate, producing a desirable crust on the surface of the meat. All meat should rest before serving, and in the case of a 4-pound joint, give it a good 30 minutes.

For the ras el hanout:

  • 1/2 cup cumin seeds
  • 1/4 cup dried rose petals
  • 1/4 cup coriander seeds
  • 3 tablespoons fresh chile flakes (I pulse a chile de arbol in a spice grinder)
  • 5 tablespoons smoked paprika
  • 1 tablespoon black peppercorns
  • 2 tablespoons ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon allspice
  • 1/8 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  1. The ras al hanout can be stored in an airtight container for up to 3 months.

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Entrees|Lamb|Fennel