One of quote unquote classic lamb recipes you'll hear/read a lot about is "Seven Hour Lamb", wherein a shoulder or leg of lamb braised in wine and a lot of aromatics. Google it right now and just about everybody whose ever written a cookbook from James Beard to Ina Garten will have a recipe attributed to them. I remember a New York Times recipe/article that explains why long cooking is great, but seven hours could be too long. I found it just now. Could be useful reading for you, I'll paste it in below.
Some things I'd want you to know: the gaminess of lamb is concentrated in the fat and sinew, so one of the advantages of butterflying a leg like Frank describes is the opportunity it gives you to remove all that stuff from inside the leg, where several fat deposits seem to reside. Brining is a good method for adding flavor and taming gaminess (I brine with cloves and bay leaf, fanTAStic combo for lamb) to a whole roast leg of lamb. Younger lamb is milder than older lamb--bigger is not better!
As others have implied, the rack (loin end of rib, without filet, equivalent to prime rib on a cow) is the most elegant piece on the lamb, usually prepared roasted and rare to medium rare. Your taste in beef may be slightly different in lamb: a lot of people who enjoy rare beef will prefer their lamb med to med rare. Lamb takes to herbs extremely well: mint, rosemary, thyme, herbs d'Provence, and dill are frequently used, and in abundance. No need to be shy. Garlic, olives, cloves, cumin, cinnamon, allspice and pepper are other flavorings frequently used with lamb.
The shank end of the leg is one of the best things about this animal. The meat is very different--I want to say glycerin-y, but that probably doesn't convey what I'm trying to describe--it's silky. You want to roast/braise this cut for 2.5 hours. It's something you want to eat well-done and that technically occurs in less time, but there's some magical thing that happens under longer cooking and 2.5-3.0 hours is what it takes to get there. You can get fancy, but you really need nothing more than salt/pepper/a mess of sliced onions and enough white wine ( sherry's great too)/and or broth to keep the onions, which caramelize while the lamb roasts, from gluing themselves to your roasting pan to have a really great dish. That is, you add the liquid in dollops throughout cooking, you never want to float the onions (use one big onion per serving), and if a few stick and turn black right at the end of cooking that's perfect. It's the way my mother prepared lamb shanks, which she did often because it was one of the cheapest cuts of meat you could buy as they had not yet been discovered by upscale restaurant chefs, and one of my favorite preps to this day.
Ground lamb makes great patties which can take on a variety of personalities depending on how you season. It also makes a terrific meat loaf: use red wine for your liquid medium, oats instead of bread brumbs, one egg per pound of meat and season with herbs d'Provence. Heavenly.
Anyway, those are just some thoughts. Here's the NYT article:
SEVERAL years ago, I made a dish known as “seven-hour leg of lamb.” A much-esteemed, classic preparation, it called for braising the meat in wine and aromatics for the better part of a day, at which point, said the recipe, I’d serve forth a silky, tender cut of meat so soft you could cut it with a spoon.
Instead, the meat disintegrated into rough, stringy bits. I tossed it all with pasta and plenty of cheese and pretended I’d meant to make lamb Bolognese all along. It was tasty enough, but not what I was hoping for.
Last year around this time, I chatted with a chef friend about what to make for Christmas Eve dinner. He suggested seven-hour leg of lamb.
Been there, done that, didn’t love it, I told him.
“Ah,” he said, shaking his head, “I’ll bet you cooked it for seven hours.”
He went on to explain that the recipe was originally devised for animals that were older, larger and tougher than today’s little lambs. With modern meat, he said, four to five hours is plenty.
He was right. Stewed with canned tomatoes, herbs and wine, the lamb started to fall off the bone four hours later. I served it in the traditional manner, over a mound of garlicky flageolets.
It was so succulent and savory that this year, I made it again. Sort of. Recipe fiddler that I am, I seem to be incapable of cooking anything the same way twice.
This time, I skipped the tomatoes and added carrots and parsnips to the pot. And instead of beans, I planned to pile the lamb on a bed of garlicky celeriac puréed so smooth it could serve as a creamy sauce.
The meat was as tender, intense and velvety as I’d remembered. But the parsnips and carrots made the juices a tad too sweet without the acidity of the tomatoes to zip everything up. To fix this, I threw in a handful of chopped green olives and some pasted raw garlic to add a bracing bite.
My guests agreed: it was the best four-and-a-half-hour seven-hour leg of lamb they’d ever had. Maybe even the only one.
My wine shopping and I have never had a problem. Just a perpetual race between the bankruptcy court and Hell.--Rogov