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Lazy Lamb Shoulder and Fennel

It’s always sexy to show a little shoulder

It’s springtime again!  The weather is getting warm and the air smells so sweet.  It’s easy to see how a killer combination like that can really get you in the mood.  Once it starts to get dark outside, all you need is a little shoulder, a little wine and just the right partner, you can have yourselves a magical evening.  Just make sure you’re packin’ meat that’s at least an inch and a half thick.  Otherwise, no one is gonna be satisfied.

Roasted lamb shoulder chops are the perfect meal for these incredibly delicious nights and like everything else in this world, if you do it just right, it can be orgasmic.  Just ask your Butcher.

He’s that nice man wearing a long white coat, usually found tottering around the meat department of your supermarket.  Ask him his name; he’ll be more than happy to help you when you need a good cut of meat.  Everyone is in such a hurry that they grab what ever they need in a pretty cellophane packet and run.  I get it, I’ve got a busy life too.  But when you’re cooking something special, it’s always nice to know an expert.  And that’s exactly what your supermarket butcher is, an expert. 

What you want is “double shoulder chops”, it’s a lamb shoulder chop, cut with extra width and believe me, if they have ‘em, your Butcher will be happy to cut them fresh just for you.  All you have to do is ask.  The shoulder lamb chops in the pre-packed case are going to be thin, too thin to cook this way.  If the chops are cut an inch or less you’ll get shrinkage, and nobody’s happy then. 

You want shoulder chops instead of rib chops because they have more meat, more marbling and are considerably less costly per pound.  They have a sweet delicate flavor that will make you not only want to lick your lips, but gnaw on the bone as well. 

This is a dish that uses wine.  When cooking with wine, obey this rule…if you wouldn’t drink it, don’t cook with it.  I always recommend taking a big, fat swig before you get started to make sure you like it and that it’s still good.  Cooking’s always fun with a little buzz.  You are only using 1 cup for this dish, I recommend setting aside the one cup and chilling the rest of the bottle to enjoy with dinner. 

Here’s what you’ll need:

1 Large Roasting Pan
4 – 6 Lamb Chops, shoulder cut 1 ½ to 2 inches thick
Magic Oil*** (can sub with Pure olive, soy or veggie oil)
5 Large Carrots – peeled and cut into 1 inch pieces
3 Stalks Celery – cut into 1 inch pieces
2 Med Onions – quartered
2 Cups Chicken Broth (1 can College Inn will work great)
1 Cup White Wine
1 or 2 Stalks Fresh Rosemary – broken up
½ Tsp. Kosher Salt
¼ Tsp. Sticks & Buds (Free samples at Cook@Iveysinmykitchen.com)
1 Bay Leaf – whole

Preheat oven 420º

Season the lamb shoulder chops on both sides with a little Magic Oil and a sprinkle of Kosher Salt. 

On the bottom layer of the pan, place the Onion, Carrots and Celery.  Sprinkle with Sticks & Buds, the remaining Kosher Salt, then add the Bay Leaf and broken up Rosemary for good measure.

Drizzle with the remaining Magic Oil and toss the veggies to coat.  Place the lamb on top of the vegetables.

Add the broth and the wine to the bottom of the pan, cover with heavy duty aluminum foil and poke a few holes in the top of the foil for steam to escape.  Roast the lamb for 25 minutes at 420º. 

After 25 minutes, remove the foil and roast for another 45 minutes until the tops are browned and the edges are crispy.

Relocate the lamb and the carrots to a serving dish and cover loosely with aluminum foil.  Let the meat rest for at least 10 minutes before cutting or serving.

There will be a little liquid left in the bottom of the pan, if you would like to use it for an easy pan sauce, this stuff is great.

Remove all the solids from the pan and pour the remaining liquid into a glass bowl.  Once the fat has floated up to the top, remove it with a spoon.  Whisk in 1 teaspoon of Dijon Mustard to the remaining liquid and drizzle it over the finished lamb.

Now we need a simple side dish…

Forever Fennel

Spring brings with it a lot of tender, new vegetables, I like Fennel.  If celery, dill and liquorish had a threesome, fennel would be the product of that union.  It has fronds on the top that look like dill, a taste that slightly resembles liquorish and has a body that sort of looks like celery’s sister.  When cooked just right, it produces a tender, almost sweet – tangy flavor that’s very popular in Italian cooking.  If you haven’t tried it before or haven’t been forced to try it since you were a kid, let me force you now.  Trust me, you’ll like it, it’s a new experience.

Fennel comes in various sizes.  If you are fortunate enough to find baby ones this time of year, they need no cutting.  However, it is far more likely that you’ll come across whitish/greenish bulbs that start at the size of your fist and work up to the size of the captain of the wrestling teams’ fist. 

All sizes are good.  They have stalks that resemble celery.  I think if you are unaccustomed to dealing with Fennel, the bigger the better – it’s easier to cut that way.  Sometimes Fennel is sold with the long stalks cut down, if that’s all they have; it will still work just fine.

Look for Fennel that is bulbous, firm in your hand and is free from brown mushy spots.  Give it a good deep sniff, if it makes you think of either Ouzo or Good N Plenty, buy it.  It has layers like an onion, so slight damages on the outside layer can be easily removed. 

When you get the Fennel home, rinse the entire thing well under cool running water.  Pinch off any fronds that have turned dark brown and remove the outer layer if it has any dark brown blemishes.  Trim the bottom root end.

You want to cut the Fennel lengthwise in about ½ inch thick strips.  Not all cuts will have the long celery-like stalks.  Some slices will be small circles.  It doesn’t matter the shape, just as long as you can get as much of the stalks into the pan.  I like to use a large baking dish like a Pyrex.

Drizzle the Fennel with Magic Oil and sprinkle it with a bit of grated Parmesan cheese.  Cover with heavy duty aluminum foil and roast covered in a 420º oven for 30 minutes.  Remove the foil for the last 5 minutes or until the fennel is golden brown and the cheese is bubbly.  Let cool for at least 5 minutes before serving.


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