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Moroccan Mechoui Recipe - Slow Roasted Leg of Lamb or Shoulder

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Moroccan Mechoui Recipe - Slow Roasted Leg of Lamb or Shoulder

Mechoui - Moroccan Roasted Leg of Lamb

Photo © Christine Benlafquih

Mechoui is traditionally prepared by roasting a whole lamb either on a spit over a fire or in a pit in the ground. The meat is eaten by hand with salt and cumin for dipping.

This mechoui recipe calls for very slowly roasting a leg of lamb or shoulder in the oven until the meat is tender enough to pull off the bone. Slow roasting with a very low temperature can take up to nine hours, depending on the thickness of the cut. Shorter roasting methods are also described below.

Plan to serve mechoui for a special family dinner or when entertaining.

Also try Mechoui Roasted Lamb Spareribs.

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Cook Time: 8 hours

Total Time: 8 hours, 15 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 1 whole leg of lamb (or shoulder) on the bone
  • ------------------------------------------------------------
  • 4 tablespoons soft unsalted butter (use smen if desired)
  • 3 or 4 cloves of garlic, pressed
  • 2 teaspoons salt, or to taste
  • 1 teaspoon pepper, or to taste
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon saffron threads, crushed
  • 1/4 teaspoon turmeric, or pinch of Moroccan yellow colorant
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • ------------------------------------------------------------
  • salt
  • cumin

Preparation:

Trim excess fat from the leg of lamb, and make a dozen or more cuts deep into the meat with the tip of a sharp knife.

Combine the butter with the garlic, spices and olive oil. Spread the mixture over the entire leg of lamb, working some butter into the incisions made with the knife. Place the leg of lamb in a roasting pan, and proceed with one of the roasting methods below.

Very Slow-Roasting Method - 7 1/2 to 9 Hours

This is my preferred method, taught to me by a friend in Marrakesh, who learned it from her Moroccan mother-in-law. You can reduce cooking time to between four and five hours by using a 350° F (180° C) oven temp.

Preheat an oven to 250°F (120/130°C).

Place the lamb in a roasting pan and cover with foil, sealing the edges tightly. Roast the lamb, basting hourly and resealing the foil each time, for 7 to 8 hours, or until the juices run clear and the meat is tender enough to pinch off the bone. Note: Small legs (under 2 kg) may finish cooking in six hours; large legs may take closer to nine hours.

Remove the foil and increase the oven temperature to 475° F (240° C). Brown the lamb, basting frequently, for 15 to 30 minutes, or until the meat is well-colored.

Transfer the lamb to a platter and allow it to rest for 10 minutes before serving. If desired, the juices can be poured over and around the lamb. Serve dishes of salt and cumin on the side for dipping.

Traditional Roasting Method - 3 to 4 Hours

When shorter on time, this method also works very well, but the meat won't be quite as tender as the above method. The lamb will, however, have more of a crisp crust, which some Moroccans find desirable.

Preheat an oven to 475° F (240° C). Add 1/2 cup of water to the pan, and roast the lamb, uncovered, for 20 minutes.

Reduce the oven temperature to 325° F (160° C) and continue roasting the lamb, basting occasionally, for 2 1/2 to 3 hours, or until the meat is tender, the juices run clear and the lamb has a dark, crisp crust.

Transfer the lamb to a platter and allow it to rest for 10 minutes before serving. If desired, the juices can be poured over and around the lamb. Serve dishes of salt and cumin on the side for dipping.

Fast Roasting Method - 1 to 2 Hours

This is the first way I ever tasted mechoui, as prepared for me by a Moroccan friend. It was part of my early and impressive introduction to Moroccan food.

Preheat an oven to 475° F (240° C). Wrap the exposed lower leg of the lamb in foil to prevent burning. Add 1/2 cup of water and a few tablespoons of olive oil to the pan, and roast the lamb, uncovered, for 1 to 2 hours, basting frequently, until the lamb is well browned and the juices run clear when a knife is inserted deep into the meat. If the meat has browned before the juices are clear, cover the meat with a loose foil to prevent further darkening.

Transfer the lamb to a platter and allow it to rest for at least 10 minutes before serving. If desired, the juices can be poured over and around the lamb. Serve dishes of salt and cumin on the side for dipping.

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