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Photo by: Joseph De Leo
The virtue of this is that you can cook the lamb overnight, which means all you need to do is shred the meat, dress it and make the salads at lunchtime itself. Or put it in the oven at a slightly higher temperature, but still unfrenetically low, in the morning and fiddle about as people arrive. You do need to serve the lamb salad warm rather than cold (a bit of fat provides flavorsome lubrication at anything above room temperature; once cold we’re talking congealed, waxy whiteness—not such an attractive proposition), but if you keep the lamb tented with foil once it’s out of the oven—should you need to hold it for longer than an hour or two—that shouldn’t pose problems.
If it’s not the pomegranate season you have a choice: either use pomegranate molasses (a tablespoonful or so, diluted with an equal amount of water), which you can get at some supermarkets now, or just use lemon juice and maybe even a little very finely grated zest.
Preheat the oven to 250°F.
On the stovetop, brown the lamb, fat-side down, in a large roasting pan. Remove when nicely browned across its middle (you won’t get much more than this) and set aside while you fry the vegetables briefly. Just tip them into the pan—you won’t need to add any more fat—and cook them, sprinkled with the salt, gently for a couple of minutes. Pour the water over and then replace the lamb, this time fat-side up. Let the liquid in the pan come to a boil, then tent with foil and put in the preheated oven.
Now just leave it there while you sleep. I find that if I put the lamb in before I go to bed, it’s perfect by lunchtime the next day. But the point is, at this temperature, nothing’s going to go wrong with the lamb if you cook it for a little less or a little more.
If you want to cook the lamb the day you’re going to eat it, heat the oven to 325°F and give it 5 hours or so. The point is to find a way of cooking that suits you: you know what sort of pottering relaxes you and what makes you feel constrained; how much time you’ve got, and how you want to use it. Don’t let the food, the kitchen or the imagined expectations of other people bully you.
With that homily over, about an hour before you want to eat, remove the lamb from the pan to a large plate or carving board—not that it needs carving; the deal here is that it’s unfashionably overcooked, falling to tender shreds at the touch of a fork. This is the best way to deal with shoulder of lamb: it’s cheaper than leg, and the flavor is deeper, better, truer, but even good carvers, which I most definitely am not, can get unstuck trying to slice it.
I get on with the peppers while the lamb’s sitting meekly, but you could equally have done this earlier, too (and see the following recipe for instructions). But to finish the lamb salad, simply pull it to pieces with a couple of forks on a large plate. Sprinkle with more sea salt and some freshly chopped mint, then cut the pomegranate in half and dot with the seeds from one of the halves. This is easily done; there’s a simple trick, which means you never have to think of winkling out the jeweled pips with a safety pin ever again. Simply hold the pomegranate half above the plate, take a wooden spoon and start bashing the curved skin side with it. Nothing will happen for a few seconds, but have faith. In a short while the glassy red, juicy beads will start raining down.
Take the other half and squeeze the preposterously pink juices over the warm shredded meat. Take to the table and serve.
What I do with the leftovers is warm a pita bread in the microwave, and then spread it with a greedy dollop of hummus, then take the chill off the refrigerated lamb in the microwave (and see earlier notes on cold fat) and stuff the already gooey pita with it. Add freshly chopped mint, black pepper and whatever else you like; raw, finely chopped red onion goes dangerously well.
Nutrients per serving (% daily value)
Nutritional information is based on 8 servings and 1/8 teaspoon of added salt per serving.