Most Greeks love lamb, and even those who don’t appreciate its unique, almost game-y flavour will appreciate that they are in the minority of Greeks. Even people who abstain from eating meat will likely acknowledge that lamb is a staple in traditional Greek cooking. Whether it is an entire lamb roasting for Easter, or a rack of lamb on the barbecue, a lamb-based meal usually means that there is something to celebrate; maybe a birthday, a nameday, or a Friday…we should always try to celebrate Friday.
Lamb tends to be one of the pricier protein choices (at least where we live) and so, when we do indulge, it’s important that we treat it right. This recipe ensures that it is. Despite the fact that it is super simple, and uses only the most straightforward of ingredients, the end result is a meal which is purely decadent and worthy of the most important celebrations…like, maybe Christmas (how many more days until Christmas??!!)
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The cut of lamb used in this recipe is lamb shoulder. This is a great choice of meat, and if you are careful to purchase a piece which has a little bit of fat on it you will be rewarded with a roast lamb which is moist, flavourful and incredibly satisfying. Whenever possible, it is important to try and develop a relationship with your local butcher, someone you can trust to supply you with the best and freshest cuts of meat.
The roasting pan that our parents use in this recipe is the same one which they use to make their epic roasted chicken and Greek style potatoes. It is a large, round metal roasting pan which is large enough to fit the lamb and potatoes, without crowding them, and without leaving too much free space. Everything fits together nice and comfortably. If the potatoes are piled, one on top of the other, they will steam rather than slow roast. And, if you have too much free space, you’re going to end up using more oil than you need to, which is wasteful. Of course, if you don’t have a round metal roasting pan, another style will work as well. In this situation, it’s really the size that matters most.
Our parents tend to use yellow fleshed potatoes when making this meal, and most other roasted meats which they accompany with potatoes. However, they have also been known to use regular russet potatoes, or other white fleshed potatoes. Truth is…if there are potatoes on sale, they will likely buy those and use them in their recipes.
You will notice that there is a fair amount of oil used in this recipe. You may balk. You may cringe. You may try to do with less. We strongly suggest that you do not. The amount of oil used does a couple of things. First, it adds flavour. Second, and most importantly, the way in which the oil coats the potatoes and lamb results in an incredible texture. Remember, although the potatoes do absorb some of the oil during the cooking, a lot of it gets left behind in the pan. It’s not horrible!
One of the great things about roasting a large piece of meat this way is that you end up with all sorts of doneness. Because the lamb shoulder has varying degrees of thickness, and bones in certain places and not others, the way that it cooks is uneven. Your lamb will be medium rare in some places, and more well done in others. This is perfect, because if your family is like ours, everyone seems to have a different taste. What is consistent throughout however is that no matter the degree of doneness, the lamb will be moist and delicious.
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Mia Kouppa: Roast lamb with potatoes
- 4 pounds lamb shoulder
- 1/2 cup (125 ml) lemon juice, freshly squeezed
- 1 tablespoon salt (15 ml) + 3/4 teaspoon (3 ml) salt
- 2 tablespoon (30 ml) Greek oregano
- 1 teaspoon (4 ml) freshly ground black pepper
- 14 medium sized potatoes
- 1/4 cup (60 ml) Greek olive oil
- 1 3/4 cups (425 ml) vegetable oil
- 1 teaspoon (4 ml) paprika
- Preheat your oven to 400 degrees Farenheit.
- Prepare your lamb shoulder by trimming away any excess fat. Place your lamb in the center of a large roasting pan, one which is just large enough to hold the lamb and all of the potatoes.
- Pour 1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice over your lamb shoulder and then sprinkle your lamb evenly with 1 tablespoon salt, 1 teaspoon ground black pepper, and 1 tablespoon Greek oregano.
- Peel your potatoes and cut them into thick wedges (for small to medium sized potatoes, but them in quarters, and for larger potatoes, cut them into 6 wedges).
- Place your potatoes into the roasting pan, surrounding the lamb. Pour 1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice over your potatoes. Evenly sprinkle your potatoes with 3/4 teaspoon salt, and 1 tablespoon oregano.
- Pour the olive oil and vegetable oil over your lamb and potatoes.
- Place your roasting pan on the bottom rack of your oven, uncovered. Cook for one hour and 30 minutes. Remove roasting pan from oven and sprinkle 1 teaspoon of paprika over the potatoes. Turn your lamb shoulder over. Cover the lamb loosely with aluminum foil. Leave the potatoes uncovered.
- Return to oven and cook for an additional 45 minutes. Check your potatoes for doneness. They should be soft and golden yellow.
- Allow your lamb to rest for 5 – 10 minutes before carving, to allow juices to settle. Enjoy.