Julie Giuffrida is Test Kitchen coordinator for the Los Angeles Times.
For Ramadan, Passover or Easter, lamb lends itself to a full spectrum of flavors and a variety of cooking methods. Here are 10 options for your holiday table.
Whether you’re observing Ramadan (now in progress through April 20), Passover (begins sundown Wednesday) or Easter (April 9), or simply want to celebrate the bounty of spring, consider lamb as a centerpiece for your feast. Lamb is equally suited for braising, roasting and grilling. The only trick is to choose the right cut for the job.
For braises, bone-in shoulder or shanks are good choices as the bones add flavor to the sauce and the typically tough and sinewy meat of these cuts becomes meltingly tender after a few hours of simmering.
Barbacoa de Borrego
Barbacoa de borrego, the favorite lamb dish recipe infused with chiles and spices, is popular to eat during festivities in Oaxaca and is typically served family-style.
Time1 hour 40 minutes
YieldsServes 6 to 8
Barbacoa De Borrego is a braise rich with the flavors of Mexico — chiles, cumin, oregano and avocado leaves, to name a few. The spices are toasted and then ground and combined with guajillo chiles to make the sauce in which the lamb is braised until it is fall-off-the-bone tender.
Lamb tajine with apricots, saffron and ginger
This tajine gets its complex flavor from spices such as saffron, cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger. Its sweetness derives from the dried fruit — apricots and prunes — and a small amount of honey.
TimeActive work time: 45 minutes Total preparation time: 3 hours 15 minutes
YieldsServes 4 to 6
Skip the air travel and bring aromas and flavors of Morocco into your home with this Lamb Tajine With Apricots, Saffron And Ginger. The dish features dried apricots and prunes paired with warm spices such as ginger, cinnamon, and nutmeg to make a sweet and spicy sauce that will delight your senses. A physical tajine may make the technique more authentic but you can achieve the same fragrant, succulent meat and gravy using a Dutch oven.
Crushed Orange and Rosemary-Braised Lamb with Crunchy Pistachio Yogurt
Pistachios add texture to tangy yogurt, which lightens a rich lamb braise flavored with orange and chiles.
Time5 hours 30 minutes
The rich, almost jelly-soft lamb in Crushed Orange And Rosemary-Braised Lamb With Crunchy Pistachio Yogurt is redolent with green garlic, citrus, rosemary and fennel. The yogurt provides a balance of flavor and texture to the dish.
French Onion-Braised Lamb With Garlic and Rosemary
Vinegar- and rosemary-infused caramelized onions surround this hearty braised lamb dish for Easter.
For more European flavor, try French Onion-Braised Lamb With Garlic And Rosemary. It’s sort of like a meaty, chunky French onion soup minus the melted cheese and crouton.
Sticky-Sour Tamarind Lamb Shanks
Tart tamarind, spicy fresh chiles and loads of heady spices add seasoning to match the intense flavor of lamb shanks.
Time3 hours 30 minutes, largely unattended
YieldsServes 4 to 6
If you prefer lamb shanks to shoulder, try Sticky-Sour Tamarind Lamb Shanks. The acidity of the tamarind is a perfect partner for the slightly gamey lamb and once the rich, tart and tangy stew is ready it gets a smattering of pickled onions to offset the intensity of the shanks.
Daube d'Agneau aux artichauts (Lamb daube with green olives, white wine and baby artichokes)
Rich and winy, redolent of orange zest and cinnamon, bay leaf and garlic and fennel, with lamb made tender by hours of slow simmering and, yes, olives, this daube is a beautiful thing.
TimeTotal time: 3 to 3 1/2 hours, plus 1 to 2 days marinating
YieldsServes 6 to 8
For the ultimate lamb stew, this Daube D’Agneau Aux Artichauts (Lamb Daube With Green Olives, White Wine And Baby Artichokes) is your best bet. This is one of those culinary projects that is not difficult but requires time for the ingredients to marinate before cooking and then more time for the flavors to marry after cooking. The layers of flavors and textures will be well worth the effort.
If you prefer a roast to a stew, a well-prepared leg of lamb will be tender and juicy with a somewhat shorter cooking time and a little less fuss.
Roast Lamb With Fresh Peas and Turnips
Russ Parsons’ recipe for lamb served with braised peas and baby turnips is a spring classic.
Time4 hours 30 minutes
Roast Lamb With Fresh Peas And Turnips is a springtime classic. The lamb is marinated overnight with herbs, garlic and wine and then roasted with aromatic vegetables. The fresh spring vegetables are cooked in lamb stock made from the hip bone from the leg and flavored with the emptied pea pods and turnip trimmings (this is also an exercise in using every last bit of each ingredient).
Roast leg of lamb with rosemary, garlic and anchovies
While the leg of lamb is roasting, the anchovies and garlic will melt into the meat, and give it a rich savor.
TimeTotal time: 2 1/2 to 3 hours
YieldsServes 8 to 12
Roast Leg Of Lamb With Rosemary, Garlic And Anchovies is another classic preparation — flavorful and simple to prepare. Stud the uncooked leg with small sprigs of rosemary, slivers of garlic and pieces of anchovies. It may look a bit rustic, but the flavors will infuse the meat with deliciousness while you prepare side dishes and set the table for your guests.
Grilled lamb is a treat worthy of any holiday meal. Chops make for quick cooking and Grilled Lamb Chops With Mint Pesto And Wilted Pea Shoots are no exception. The mint pesto is a nice variation on mint jelly, and pea shoots are a lovely option for those (like me) who don’t particularly care for peas.
Ground lamb, spiked with chile paste, is molded around skewers and then grilled in this classic Turkish kebab.
Time1 hour, plus 2 hours chilling
Finally, if you prefer your lamb ground, Adana Kebabs are richly spiced with cumin, sumac and cinnamon and get some heat from pul biber (Aleppo pepper) chile flakes. Cook them outside over hot coals or inside under the broiler or even in a grill pan. Eat them with flatbreads and mezze of your choosing, though tzatziki, Turkish shepherd’s salad and a grilled onion salad with pomegranate and sumac are highly recommended.