Sunday, June 5, 2011

Lamb Carnitas Greek Style [Zack]

One of my favorite things to do is cruise the internet looking for interesting recipe ideas.  One of my favorite people to read is Kenji Lopez-Alt because he approaches cooking very scientifically.  This recipe took the traditional way of making Carnitas and gives a practical approach for the home cook.  I adapted his recipe for Pork Carnitas by using lamb and taking it in my own direction.

This dish is a great heavy appetizer at a dinner party or goes great with a fresh Greek Salad.  It's great to prepare the day before a party since all you have to do is heat and assemble it.  Plus the flavors get to know each other better ;)


Find a nice large lamb shoulder (preferably de-boned, but if not, you can easily figure out where it is and where to cut by feeling around) and dice it into 1 inch cubes.

Start a large frying pan on medium heat and let it get hot for 10 minutes while you continue to dice.  Once the pan is properly heated, add 3 T of olive oil and then brown the meat.  Do this in batches!  Don't over-crowd the pan - there should be even spacing between the chunks of lamb or else you will just steam it :(

Transfer the browned lamb to your cooking vessel (I used a large casserole dish) and then pour the excess oil and juices into the same dish if you are worried about it browning too much on the bottom of the pan.  Finish carmelizing the outside of the lamb with the remaning batches and adding it to the casserole dish.

Add the dried peppers, sliced onions, and oil to cover the lamb pieces.

Add in the powdered spices, juice from the orange, and cumin seeds (toast in the leftover oil in the pan if you are feeling fancy.) 

Give everything a good mix, and transfer it to your pre-heated oven at 275 F / 135 C and let it slowly cook for 3-4 hours.  During cooking, the onions will slowly and deeply carmelize, the peppers will rehydrate and release their heat, and the spices will give the lamb nice zing.

Check the lamb after 3 hours by seeing if it will easily pull apart with a knife or 2 forks.  If not, put it back in the oven for another 30 minutes and check again. 

If you cooking in advance, you can place the tray covered in the fridge for at least a week.  When you are ready to serve, take the lamb and pour it into a mesh strainer set up over a bowl to let the juices and oil drain.  Shred the lamb with 2 forks and add back a few T of the oil/juice mixture to moisten.  Place under a broiler and stir every few minutes to make sure it crisps and browns evenly.

Save the oil for round 2 in a jar in your freezer.  This recipe is one of my favorites and I'm sure you will want a second batch within a few weeks....

Greek Yogurt Sauce:
Combine the yogurt, diced feta, diced cilantro, the lemon juice and salt & pepper to taste. 

To Assemble:
Toast the sliced bread (make your own!) with some olive oil or garlic butter.  Top with the browned pulled lamb, then the Greek Yogurt Sauce, then the minced shallots.  Enjoy!

Pulled Lamb:
1 lamb shoulder cut into 1 inch cubes (4-6 lbs or 2kg)
3-4 cups of olive oil (depending on the size of your cooking vessel)
1 large onion, sliced into moons
2 T cumin seeds (or 1.5 T of cumin powder)
5-10 dried chile peppers
1 T of salt (can add more at the end)
2 T corriander powder
Juice of one orange

Greek Yogurt sauce:
1 cup greek or natural unflavored yogurt (no sugar!)
1/3 cup diced feta cheese
1 bunch diced cilantro
juice of 1/2 of a lemon
salt and pepper to taste

Diced shallots
toasted, sliced bread


  1. Can i Get a care package in NJ? this site makes me so hungry.


  2. Zach, my first visit to your blog: I'm so impressed!!! Way-to-go-bro! :) haha

    I should make sure Sam never founds out about this lamb recipe, he enjoyed it SO much when you made this for us that he'll be asking me to make this for him every day...