Cooking Italy: Pan Roasted Lamb with Juniper Berries

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Pan Roasted Lamb with Juniper Berries

I am such a food blogger personality type. Earlier this year, I purchased juniper berries, just because they sounded interesting. They sat in my pantry in a mason jar, waiting for a recipe.

Every month I pick our weekly dish for the Cooking Italy group, and when I saw juniper berries, I stopped, and headed to retrieve that jar. I never even looked at the recipe until I had already published the choices. And, that’s now a good thing.

The three reasons I might NOT have chosen this dish:

1. There is no pre-browning of the meat and that is not appealing.
2. Lamb shoulder. I’m pretty much a rack and chops girl.
3. Three hours of cooking on top of the stove…for lamb shoulder.
But, these cute juniper berries said, “give us a chance to tickle your palate and trust Marcella who said, “the roast will be ugly and grey” and she promised a happy ending, much  like the ugly duckling that turns into a beautiful brown swan lamb roast.

It’s the perfect dish to make when it’s a sunny day and you are stealing every moment to cook and photo several dishes at once for your blog, or….you are watching the game and it’s not too much trouble to turn the meat every 30 minutes.

The three reasons I would choose to make this again:

1. Taste and texture. Meat falls off the bone, is flavorful.
2. You get to use juniper berries and it’s not for Bambi.
3. Easy – this is the piece of meat anyone can cook if they can trust the instructions.

Meat and Potatoes
The lamb hits that umami taste bud, so what better to go with this than yukon gold potatoes cooked with mushrooms. Thanks to some of the tips from the cooking Italy group, I cut my potatoes much thinner than the recipe and used a convection roast setting, while keeping the roasting dish in the top part of the oven. They cooked in 20 minutes, and were crispy.

Can I talk to you again about following a recipe?
If you are following any food blogs, or you are a member of Cooking Italy, you probably know your way around the kitchen fairly well. Let me encourage you to use your own gut instincts. The potato recipe asked for a thick cut of potatoes. I don’t like steak fries or thick potatoes, so I changed it. It called for a 1/3 cup of olive oil. I have learned that when using a shallow stone baking pan (pampered chef) which is seasoned, I don’t need a lot of olive oil, so I simply use my hands to toss anything I am roasting. This lesser amount of oil also helped to crisp up the potatoes. The interesting thing is that the potatoes in general didn’t have a high success rate, but the lamb did. This speaks to my mantra that simple is not easy, and requires more precision and thought than you think.

I have a nice surprise for you.
Giuliano Hazan and his darling, smart wife, Lael allowed me to interview them. I will post the interview this week, and you don’t want to miss it. Giuliano shared five essential ingredients in an Italian kitchen and it will surprise you.

Recipe for Pan Roasted Lamb with Juniper Berries

(adapted from Marcella Hazan’s Essentials of Classical Cooking)


  • 2 1/2 pounds lamb shoulder, cut into 3-4 inch pieces, with the bone in.
  • 1 tablespoon chopped carrot
  • 2 tablespoons chopped onion
  • 1 tablespoon chopped celery
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 2 garlic cloves, mashed lightly with a knife handle, the skin removed
  • A sprig of fresh rosemary
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons lightly crushed, juniper berries
  • Salt
  • Black pepper, ground fresh from the mill


1. Choose a heavy-bottomed or enameled cast-iron pot that will contain all the ingredients. Put all the ingredients in to it, cover the pot, and turn the heat on to medium low. Turn the lamb pieces over about twice an hour.

2. After 2 hours, the ingredients should have shed a considerable amount of juice. Set the pot’s cover on slightly ajar, and continue cooking at slightly higher heat. Turn the meat from time to time. Ager an hour and a half more, the lamb should feel tender when prodded with a fork. If there is still too much liquid in the pot, uncover, raise the heat and reduce it to a less runny consistency. Taste the meat and correct for salt.

1. Tip the pot and spoon off as much of the liquified lamb fat as you can. Transfer the entire contents of the pot to a warm platter and serve at once.


  • 1 pounds yukon golds, peeled, sliced thin
  • 2 garlic cloves, chopped finely
  • 1 cup cremini mushrooms, sliced thinly
  • Olive Oil
  • Sea Salt, Fresh Pepper
  1. Toss potatoes and mushroom in garlic, olive oil, salt and pepper.
  2. Arrange in layers on parchment paper or stone bakeware.
  3. Layer mushrooms between potatoes.
  4. Put pan in upper part of oven.
  5. Roast at 400 degrees for 15 minutes.
  6. Turn potatoes, bake five more minutes. You may need to make your own adjustments with timing

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