Slow-Roasted Lamb Shoulder with White Beans and Olive Tapenade

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I have to be careful what I email Danny. Sometimes I bookmark recipes I find online or I star them on Google Reader (not for much longer), but I email a lot of recipes to him. The thing is I have to be prepared to jump right on what I send him because he usually wants to make it right now. This week. As soon as possible. Tonight.

I managed to talk him off the ledge of slow-roasting a four-hour lamb shoulder on a weeknight, and we saved it for Saturday. Around 4 p.m., we paused Goldfinger on Netflix, and prepped the lamb. The biggest consideration with a recipe like this is timing, but it’s otherwise fairly simple. Rub salt, pepper, and herbes de provence all over the lamb. Place the lamb in a Dutch oven, break up a head of garlic and scatter the whole, unpeeled cloves around the meat. Roast in a low oven, turning the lamb every hour or so. By the end, the meat is falling apart and perfectly cooked. We used a 5-pound piece of lamb shoulder, but the cooking time was about the same.

The beans soak quickly and then simmer on the stovetop. This recipe doesn’t even ask you to slice the onion. Plop it in with the beans, skin and all.

The olive tapenade is the most labor intensive part of this meal. This is when you finally bring out your knife. The ingredient list is long, but after some chopping, all you have to do is blitz it all in a food processor. That is, after pitting two cups of olives. But I find that it’s easiest to set your boyfriend up with that task, and he’ll come up with a good system. Cut a quick slit at the end of the olive; then press down on the olive with the side of a knife, like you would a clove of garlic to remove its skin. The pit practically pops out.

This is just the kind of thing to make for friends coming over. The beans and tapenade can be made ahead, and the lamb just slow roasts until everybody is here and hungry.

Pork shoulder is what you’re more likely to find at our home, but I’m grateful for this push to try lamb shoulder. It’s spring, and lamb seems right for the season, but it was wonderful. A bit expensive upfront, but not really when you compare it to going out and you break this meal down by servings. Adam says four, but with a slightly bigger piece of meat this will be at least six. And there’s plenty of tapenade to go around.

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slow-roasted lamb shoulder with white beans and olive tapenade

This made for a spectacular Saturday night dinner, and the Monday lunch leftovers were just as good. The beans and tapenade can be made ahead, and then it’s just the lamb, which makes this a great candidate for a dinner party. Slow roasting the lamb could not be easier. Do not skip the Herbes de Provence. This blend of herbs adds flavor and an incredible aroma throughout your house. You can even find a Badia jar of the stuff at Publix. 

for the lamb and beans:

3- to 5-pound lamb shoulder, preferably bone-in
olive oil
kosher salt
black pepper
2 to 3 tablespoons Herbes de Provence
a head of garlic, broken into cloves
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 bag dried white beans (about 14 ounces)
1 small or medium yellow onion

Heat the oven to 300°F.

Place the lamb shoulder in a Dutch oven and rub it all over with olive oil. Season generously with salt, pepper, and Herbes de Provence. Toss the unpeeled garlic cloves around the lamb and pour in the white wine. Cover and roast for four hours, flipping the lamb every hour. It will be incredibly tender when it’s done and the lamb will give to the pull of a fork. To be sure, an internal temperature of 150°F for the lamb is good. Scoop up the juices and browned bits in the bottom of the pan and pour into a bowl.

Meanwhile, cook the beans. If you forgot to soak overnight, no worries! Place the beans in a large pot with enough water to cover the beans. Bring to a boil, cover the pot with its lid, turn off the heat and let the beans hang out for 1 hour. Drain the soaked beans and return to the pot with fresh water, enough to cover the beans by two inches. Plop the whole onion in with the beans and season with a generous pinch of salt. You could add a bay leaf if you’ve got one around. Simmer until beans are soft and creamy but still hold their shape, 60 to 90 minutes. Taste and season with more salt if necessary. Drain the beans but reserve their liquid. Always better to heat the beans with some of their own liquid.

Carve the lamb and place next to a serving of beans. Pour some of the lamb pan juices over the lamb and beans; those browned bits are as intensely flavored as the tapenade. Sprinkle with parsley and serve with tapenade on the side.

for the tapenade:

To easily pit an olive, cut a quick slit at the end of it; then press down on the olive with the side of a knife, like you would a clove of garlic to remove its skin. The pit practically pops out.

2 cups oil-cured black olives, pitted
2 teaspoons capers, rinsed well if packed in salt
2 small garlic cloves, minced
zest and juice of 1 lemon
1 teaspoon (chopped) thyme
2 anchovy fillets, rinsed well if packed in salt
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil, though I’d do a little less next time
a pinch of cayenne pepper
fresh parsley, chopped

Pulse the olives, capers, garlic, lemon zest and juice, thyme, anchovies, olive oil, and cayenne in a blender or food processor until combined. Transfer tapenade to a bowl. Serve with lamb and beans. Spread leftover tapenade on sandwiches.

Serves 4 to 6. Adapted slightly from The Amateur Gourmet, (who was inspired by by Clotilde Dusoulier and David Tanis).

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