Slow Roasted Lamb with Bordeaux Caramel Recipe

Slow Roast Lamb with Caramel Sauce

I know some of you are groaning right now wondering why I’m posting lamb yet again. I get it, I used to be a lamb hater myself. It can have a funk that’s hard to get past and if it’s not prepared right, it can be downright bad. But as with many foods I thought I didn’t like at one point in my life, I’ve come around. Prepared well, lamb can be sublime, easily besting beef, and possibly (though rarely) trumping pork.

For this roast, I cured the lamb overnight in the fridge in a garlic rub that permeates the meat, infusing it with salt and taking some of the edge of the lamb. The slow roast at a low temperature renders out much of the fat while liquifying the tougher connective tissues making for a super tender, melt-in-your mouth experience that is sure to put a smile on any meat-lover’s face.

Because the meat is on the salty side, I wanted a sauce that’s sweet and slightly acidic to balance it out. A red wine reduction seemed like a no-brainer, but I was looking for something more complex, so I brought the sugar to a caramel brown before adding the wine. To bridge the gap between the sweet and fruity caramel sauce and the lamb, I added the deep brown caramelized juices of the lamb (a.k.a. meat crack), and finish it off with a pat of butter to mellow it out. By the time it’s done, it’s an ebony shade of brown, viscous and rich, like liquid meat candy.

Slow Roasted Lamb Shoulder

To offset the decadent lamb, I served this with a saute of spring greens, which included baby artichokes, asparagus, spring onions and fresh chickpeas. Chickpeas, like lamb are an oft misunderstood food. Their other name “garbonzo bean” conjures up memories of all-you-can-eat salad bars with wilting, brown-edged iceberg lettuce, and creamy orange dressings. Even people with a soft-spot for hummus tend to shy away from the whole beans.

Fresh Chickpeas

Fresh chickpeas are an entirely different beast. Looking more like an alien brain, than a legume, fresh peas have a ridged appearance radiating an erie fluorescent green glow from inside the pea itself. For added entertainment value, each pod contains a pair of peas protected by a cushion of air that escapes with a pleasant pop when you squeeze them. Shelling peas is always a hassle, but juvenile pod popping fun aside, you’ll be rewarded with sweet and tender peas that bear almost no resemblance to the dried or canned variety.

Fresh Chickpeas and Asparagus

A quick blanche followed by a saute and squeeze of lemon, and these spring veggies make the perfect foil on which to present your slow roasted lamb.

Slow Roasted Lamb with Bordeaux Caramel Recipe

for lamb
3-4 lbs lamb shoulder roast
6 cloves garlic grated into a paste
2 Tbs kosher salt
1 Tbs sugar
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper

for bordeaux caramel
1 Tbs corn syrup
1/4 C sugar
3/4 C bordeaux wine
meat caramel from the roast lamb
1 Tbs butter

for spring veggie saute
olive oil
2 spring onions sliced
6 baby artichokes trimmed of tough leaves and stems peeled
1 C fresh chick peas shelled (or english peas)
10 spears asparagus
lemon juice

Smear the garlic all over the roast. If your roast has been pre-tied, make sure you get the garlic into all the crevasses. Mix the salt, sugar and pepper together and sprinkle it all over the roast (it should make a thick crust on the outside). Wrap the whole roast tightly in plastic wrap, put it in a bowl, and store it in the refrigerator overnight.

When you’re ready to roast the lamb, unwrap it and place it on a rack on a cookie sheet. Use a sheet of aluminum foil to make a tray just larger than the roast. The idea is to have something under the rack to catch all the juices from the roast so they don’t run all over the cookie sheet and burn.

Preheat oven to 250 degrees F. Roast the lamb for 4-6 hours, or until a fork passes easily through the roast. While the meat is roasting, add the corn syrup and sugar into a heavy bottomed saucepan over medium high heat and let the sugars caramelize until medium brown (about 345 degrees F on a candy thermometer). Remove the pot from the heat then slowly add the wine. The caramel will bubble up and get hard, but this is okay. Put it back on the heat and let it boil until the caramel is melted. Turn off the heat and wait till the roast is done to finish the sauce.

Tip: Because corn syrup contains a different kind of sugar (glucose), it prevents the granulated sugar (sucrose) from crystalizing.

Prepare a large bowl of ice water. Heat a large pot of heavily salted water (it should taste like the sea) to a boil and toss the shelled chickpeas and asparagus in. As soon as the asparagus turns bright green (should take less than a minute), use a slotted spoon to transfer the greens to a the ice bath. Add the trimmed artichoke hearts to the boiling water and cook until you can pass a fork through them. Drain the artichokes as well as the chickpeas and asparagus and set aside.

Remove the roast from the oven and wrap it in a couple layers of foil. The foil tray you made under the roast should have collected all the lamb juices and fat. The juices should have caramelized into a brown crust called fond by now, which should peel up off the foil, leaving the oil behind. Add this caramelized lamb juice into the sauce pan with wine. Put the saucepan over medium high heat and boil until the sauce is very thick (it should almost be chewy). Whisk in the butter to finish.

For the spring veggie saute, heat a frying pan until hot. Add a splash of oil then add the spring onions. Sautee until soft then add the chick peas, asparagus and artichoke. Fry to warm through and season with salt and pepper. Add a splash of lemon juice just before serving.

When you’re ready to serve the slow roast lamb, unwrap it and slice it into 1/2″ pieces. Serve with sauteed vegetables, smashed potatoes and a drizzle of the Bordeaux Caramel.

  • bunkycooks

    You cannot prepare lamb too much if it is done like this! I am sure the Bordeaux reduction is incredible. I am totally fascinated with the fresh chickpeas. I have never seen them in any market here. I will have to make it a point to look for some.

  • norecipes


  • wendellbeverstock

    This recipe sounds great! Thank you for sharing and spelling out the details so clearly!

  • Muneeba

    You're not gonna get any complaints from ME about posting a lamb recipe … keep 'em coming I say! Love lamb … and totally love staring hungrily at your pics 😉

  • Eliz

    Marc, I can relate. Never liked lamb; Italian mama surprisingly didn`t make it (I also had an Italian father who inexplicably didn`t eat garlic, too), and then there was the gamey factor. Fast forward to adulthood and a husband for whom lamb is the ne plus ultra. Yep. Now I like lamb. Dare I say – I LOVE lamb. I have embraced my inner gaminess to the max. Your recipe looks amazing (I just love your photos) and you can bet that the minute my husband is back from China this will be on the menu. Hmm – I`ve never seen fresh chick peas – will use fava instead.


  • danielle_bonvivant

    I LOVE lamb so you can keep those recipes coming! I've never been one to cook red meat (the resident Frenchman takes care of that), but leaving it in the oven for 4-6 hours sounds very doable. We're having guests in a few weeks, might give it a try for dinner – will let you know how it goes!

  • Nisrine Merzouki

    What a delicious lamb recipe. I grew up in Morocco eating a lot of lab and I love it. Your pastilla recipe is also delicious! Thank you. Nisrine

  • Manggy

    Whoa! Can you believe I've never even seen a fresh garbanzo before? That's quite a revelation. Lamb is relatively uncommon (and expensive) here as you know, and always from a deep freeze. But I hope to get very acquainted with it soon :)

  • sippitysup

    The lamb is spectacular and the sauce is just the kind of thing you do so well. But the fresh garbanzo beans really caught my eye! I recently did a similar saute with English peas, sugar snap peas and pea tendrils. But the nitty tones in asparagus and these beans have really got my mind clicking. I have a feeling fresh garbanzo beans are showing up soon at Sippity Sup. Maybe in a puree stirred into a white risotto just before serving… hmmm, now I'm just thinking out loud. Thanks for the inspiration. GREG

  • Peter G

    Um…who can ever get bored with lamb??? Never! This looks amazing and I love the sauce you paired with it. I've never tried fresh chicpeas…and they do look like alien brains!..LOL! Truly a great meal Marc!

  • Mister Meatball

    You can never post enough lamb dishes, far as I'm concerned.

    Nice work.

    And I just planted my chickpeas yesterday!

  • theduodishes

    This Bordeaux caramel sauce sounds quite intriguing, especially with lamb. Sweet and savory in each bite.

  • WillKW

    This has to be one of the most provocatively beautiful meals I have seen in a while. Just the idea of it is driving me crazy.

  • vacook

    I made this twice last year. The overnight cure does amazing things to the flavor of the lamb. The sauce is lovely as well. It’s a fabulous recipe; thank you!

  • Milo Beyts

    I just made this for my Mum, aided by my younger brother as our Mother’s Day meal. Absolutely exquisite, everyone including myself loved it. The temptation is to cover the cuts of lamb with the reduction like a traditional gravy but follow his advice and just drizzle it; the sauce is very powerful. Delicious delicious delicious, will make again!

  • Phoebe Wong

    do you think this works with lamb leg too?

    • Marc Matsumoto

      Absolutely! Legs are perfect for slow roasting.

      • Phoebe Wong

        Thank you!

  • SH

    If I can’t use corn syrup, is there something else I can use instead maybe honey?

    • Marc Matsumoto

      The purpose of the corn syrup isn’t as a sweetener, it’s an invert sugar, which prevents the formation of sugar crystals in your caramel. You can substitute any refined invert sugar and it will have the same effect. Honey, while an invert sugar, has impurities that will burn before your sugar caramelizes. If you use a very clean pan and pure granulated sugar, you should be okay just omitting the corn syrup.

  • armedjester

    This was the best lamb I ever had. 5/5 stars. Substituted Bordeaux with Nebbiolo because I love that grape, but otherwise stuck to this norecipe :) Fab!

  • Charlie Ralph

    Would I be able to make the sauce ahead of time and just re-warm it? If so would I do anything differently.

    • Marc Matsumoto

      Hi Charlie, you could make the sauce ahead of time, but you won’t be able to finish it until the lamb is done as it uses the pan drippings from the lamb.

      • Charlier57

        Thanks Marc.
        Even if I can do a bit of it the day before, it will help in the time factor on Easter Sunday. Also if I make a mistake, I’ll have time to try again.

  • Charlier57

    Hi Marc: Made the Lamb. The meat was wonderful! I will be making it this way from now on.
    However did have issues with the sauce.
    I did it all the same day, as close to the doneness of the roast as I could. I have done redux before, but this just wouldn’t thicken. I went step by step but it just didn’t work.
    Maybe next time.

    • Marc Matsumoto

      Hi Charlie, sorry to hear you had troubles with the sauce. Depending on the strength of your burner the wine could take a little while to evaporate. The 3/4 cup of wine should end up being a few tablespoons. You could try to speed it up next time by making the sauce in a frying pan instead of a sauce pan as the larger surface area will make the wine reduce faster.

  • Charlier57

    Hi Marc: Thanks for the tip about the frying pan.
    Although my stove does heat quite high. Oh well if you don’t succeed try try again.

    Have a Joyful Day :~D


I'm Marc, and I want to teach you some basic techniques and give you the confidence and inspiration so that you can cook without recipes too!

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