Lamb Shoulder For Those Who Love Lamb But Don’t Want To Spend The Money

January 24, 2012 | By | COMMENTS

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The meat section at my local Gelson’s is pretty spectacular: if you name a cut of meat, they probably have it. And on Friday night I was craving lamb and, studying the lamb options there, I saw a giant leg of lamb for $70 and a rack of lamb for $40. Those prices would seem to make lamb prohibitively expensive, yet there was another lamb option there for a measly $10.

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Those are two big lamb shoulder chops for $10.52.

Here’s the thing about lamb shoulder–like stew meat, it’s not the kind of thing you’d sear and serve up in a matter of minutes (though I did once have something like that at Prune, one of the only dishes I’ve ever eaten there that I didn’t enjoy). Lamb shoulder is built for braising, which means slow cooking it in a flavorful liquid. What happens is the connective tissue starts to break down and what was once a tough cut of meat becomes incredibly tender. You should be able to cut it with your fork.

Noodling around online, I found a few recipes which I synthesized into this one. I chopped up half a red onion, a carrot, (I would’ve added celery but didn’t have it), garlic and parsley:

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I got a skillet very hot and added a big splash of olive oil. I patted the lamb shoulder chops very dry, seasoned them with salt and pepper and added them carefully to the hot pan:

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This step is the most important step, where all the flavor comes from. You want to get those chops brown. Here they are when I flipped them over:

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I did pretty well and continued by browning the sides with a pair of tongs. Once brown all over, I removed the chops to a plate and then added those vegetables I showed you earlier:

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The pan’s very hot here, so you may want to turn down the heat so the garlic doesn’t brown too fast. Sprinkle the veg with a little salt and stir until soft but not too brown; then add a big tall glass of white wine (you can sip a little while you’re waiting):

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Let that boil away for a bit–it’ll smell wonderful. When most of it’s gone, add a can of San Marzano peeled tomatoes that you’ve crushed by hand, first, in a big bowl. Sprinkle with salt and place your lamb back in there, pouring in any juices that’ve accumulated on the plate:

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Bring to a gentle simmer, cover and then check it every so often–once covered the temperature will go up and you don’t want it bubbling in the extreme. Just little bubbles.

Cook like this for 45 minutes to an hour; to check doneness, lift one of those chops to a plate and cut in and taste. Is it super tender? Do you love it? If so, you’re done.

Remove the other chop and, uncovered, bring your tomato sauce to a rapid boil. It will still be very liquidy and you want it to be thick and chunky. So cook until that happens, tasting towards the end for salt.

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To serve, you have a few choices. You could boil up some pasta and dress the pasta in the remaining sauce, serving the chop on the side. Or you can do what I did and place a chop on each plate, cover it in sauce and then toast up good bread under the broiler, rub it with garlic and drizzle with olive oil for scooping up sauce.

No matter what, serve with a good red wine and enjoy your seemingly fancy but secretly cheap lamb dinner:

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Lamb shoulder is a thrifty lamb-lover’s best friend.

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Categories: Braises, Recipes

  • SweetPea

    First time to have lamb, this was a very, very good way to cook the shoulder. Tender, tasteful and full of flavor. Poured sauce over pasta. Used Red Wine Vinegar and water, as we do not have wine. Thank you for posting this for us to use.

  • Tony

    your lamb recipe was just frikkin awesome used home made red fruit wine instead of white I’d try this meal on anyone of my friends Thanks alot Tony Fauquier Ont

  • Holly

    Made this tonight and it was delicious. I’ve tried similar things in the past but with red wine, which I think made them too rich/heavy. The white wine was perfect. Even made a bad cut of meat tender and tasty – thanks!

  • TeeQue

    Each summer I buy a lamb at a local county fair and the processor always gives me some lamb steaks (many actually) and I don’t know why I didn’t think of braising them like this! I always trim the extra fat off any lamb I’m cooking, this tempers that real muttony lamb taste you can sometimes get. But, with a fresh processed lamb, no matter what cut I cook (even burgers) the lamb is tender and has wonderful flavor. Even my son, who is a bit finicky about lamb asked what kind of meat was in the sauce! I didn’t have white wine so I used red and it was delish! I also used home grown Italian plum tomatoes – I skinned and seeded them – used about 4 cups – this was sooooo darn good! Simple and delicious! Once the meat is done, I de-bone and de-fat and cut into bite-size chunks, I add it back to the sauce. I served it once with homemade fettuccini and the second time with homemade ravioli, serving the lamb steak separately. But you could cut it off the bone and add it to the sauce, equally amazing! This is a go-to recipe for me!! Thank you! :)

  • Cornelius

    Thanks for the recipe, I’ll give it a try. If you bought the lamb at a Gelson’s the chances are you probably live reasonably close to a Super King Market – L.A. area. FYI, currently lamb shoulder is selling for $2.99 a pound (versus $8.99 at Gelson’s) at the Super King near my house.

  • Chez Bozzy

    Made this tonight and it was delicious! The sauce developed such a rich, deep flavor, we couldn’t have enjoyed it more. I had vermouth open so used that, and added red bell pepper. This is a keeper. Your photos and commentary drew me right in.

  • Ashley

    Making this right now! Got two shoulder lamb chops for 5 bucks! This student is very happy indeed :D

  • Gerry , Salem Mass. 8 March 20

    Finally found a delicious easy lamb shoulder chop recipe! Used 2 American round bone in cuts as shown , but substituted crushed rosemary & tarragon flakes for parsley (didn’t have any). As we are garlic “lovers” , used EXTRA garlic !! Wonderful full bodied , rich taste , but meat still a bit chewy ($6.49 lb.). Maybe use a bit of meat tenderizer next time, but still prefer rib or loin chops !! What are your favorites for these cuts ?