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23 November 2008

I need braising advice. I want to make this recipe for North African Braised Lamb Shoulder with Harissa, but I'm confused about cooking times and methods. [More:]

For one thing, I'm unsure whether "Cover with aluminum foil and roast in the middle of the oven for 2 hours. Raise oven temperature to 400F,uncover the lamb and baste with the braising juices in the pan for the last half hour of cooking" means that the total cooking time is 2 1/2 hours (2 hours at original temp, 1/2 hour at 400) or 3 hours (2 1/2 hours at original temp, plus half hour at 400).

For another thing, don't these temperatures seem high for braising? Is it because there's no browning ahead of time? Is it because it's really roasting rather than braising? Something else?

(I'm trying to expand my cooking skills to include large pieces of meat, which I'm not very well versed in.)
I need braising advice.

I have no advice. Braise yourself up by your bootstraps! HAHAHA!
posted by jonmc 23 November | 19:10
I read it as 2 1/2 hours total cooking time.

I would think 400 is definitely roasting. When I think of braising I think of cooking slowly in liquid. Wikipedia entry on braising tells me I'm half right. There's liquid involved, but it's not necessarily slow or low heat.

Good luck. The recipe sounds absolutely delicious!
posted by LoriFLA 23 November | 19:11
That Wikipedia article now has me craving goulash. I need to track down a good goulash recipe.

Everything I'm finding (which, granted, seems to be the same source quoted on different sites) is saying 20-25 min/lb for oven-cooking a lamb roast. Which, for a 3- to 4-pound roast, would be 60-100 minutes. 150 minutes, at high heat, seems long, even with liquid to cut the heat. Hrmmm....

This is why I usually choose recipes on sites that have user reviews. :-)
posted by occhiblu 23 November | 19:30
OK, this makes me feel better. I made that pork a few weeks ago, and it was yummy, and she's got a 3lb roast cooking for 2 1/2 hours.

So I guess I'll just try this recipe as-is and see what happens. I know y'all are waiting with bated breath for reports on the results. :-)
posted by occhiblu 23 November | 19:41
That does seem long, even though I have never roasted lamb in my life. This recipe for Raosted Lamb Shoulder calls for 6 pounds of lamb shoulder (cut into chops, though) and it is only roasted for 2 1/2 hours. This particular recipe says to lower oven temperature if the meat starts to be drying quickly. If you keep a close eye and lower the temperature, or reduce the cooking time if need be, I imagine things would turn out nicely.

I rely on user reviews, too.

On preview, oh good. Let us know how it goes! You are always cooking interesting, delicious things. I think a lot of fine dining goes on in your house, occhi. :-)
posted by LoriFLA 23 November | 19:50
I'd keep an eye on it. There are many different schools of thought on how to cook lamb, with the "old" school cooking it to medium well-well. The newer school insists this is overcooking it and some of the high end Colorado nouvelle chefs (lamb is a regional specialty out here) claim anything further than medium rare is heresy. Of course it also depends on how young the lamb is and several other factors. So the answer is "it depends". Which is why so many people fear and loathe dealing with lamb, I guess. They've either had trouble cooking it, or had it cooked to death, or had old, fatty, gamey pieces of "lamb" that's actually closer to mutton.

So the answer probably is: it depends, and watch it like a hawk if you think the cooking time seems long.
posted by lonefrontranger 23 November | 19:55
I'd keep an eye on the liquid level, but otherwise that sounds about right to me (2 hrs covered, followed by 1/2 hr uncovered at the higher temp). It's a shoulder roast, so would likely be tough without the 2 hours of braising, covered. I'd be tempted to do it longer (say, about 2.5-3 hrs) at 325F before raising the temp, but as my mum always said, do it by the book the first time, then you know how you might want to play with it the next time. (Leg of lamb, on the other hand, should be roasted to med-rare, IMHO.)
posted by elizard 23 November | 20:20
Every time I see the word "harissa" I think "harrada" and I wonder if it will make me mute and paralyzed when I eat it.

I played WAY too much Oblivion.
posted by BitterOldPunk 23 November | 20:56
I agree that total time is 2.5 hours as written. But why leave it to chance? I usually use a meat thermometer to judge the degree of doneness of a meat dish. Going just on time is really hard, because cuts can vary so much in size and in bone size and ovens vary in accuracy. I'm not sure what the doneness benchmarks for your cuts of lamb are, but they should be easy to look up.

Even if the temps look high, from the physics standpoint, so much oven heat is going to be absorbed by the heating of the water that the interior of the pot will never be that high. And it looks like it implies you should be starting in a 350 oven or thereabouts, which won't dry your meat out by any stretch. You'll be slowly, slowly heating the liquid and meat, cooking the meat in hottish liquid for maybe an hour, then removing the cover and having a nice browning/basting time at a high heat to get that dark caramelization pictured.
posted by Miko 23 November | 22:33
A tip: lamb is horrendously expensive (unless you live in New Zealand). But if you live anywhere near a Muslim community, you'll find really good quality lamb at half the normal butcher/supermarket price. I buy all my lamb for stews and roasts at the halal places in Forest Gate or Walthamstow.
posted by essexjan 24 November | 12:33
But if you live anywhere near a Muslim community...

Yeah, not so much in Central California, really. I still get kind of excited when I see someone else who's not blond.

The lamb turned out ok. The flavors were good, but I didn't like the way the meat cooked. Next time, I'd probably brown the meat first, then cook for less time at a lower temp. And I'd also turn it during cooking; having half the meat in the liquid and half out meant that half of it got brown and the other half wouldn't have, except that I checked it 15min. before it was supposed to come out and noticed the problem and turned it over.

But the red pepper and harissa condiment-y thing was really good. Truthfully, I'd probably skip the whole roast thing next time and just make that as a side for lamb chops.
posted by occhiblu 24 November | 15:12
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