More and more I find myself by passing beef and going to the lamb section of the supermarket meat department. Usually, I stick to grilled lamb chops or a simple roast leg, although sometimes I'll locate a rack of lamb, spread it with herbs and bread crumbs and have a quite elegant meal with surprisingly little effort.
The recipes call for leg or shoulder of lamb. Shoulder is a less expensive cut which may require making a special request to the meat department. If shoulder is used, the meat should be cooked until it is medium-well done, instead of medium or even medium rare. LAMB AU GRATIN (6 servings) 3 pounds lamb leg or 2 1/2 pound shoulder, cut into 1-inch cubes 2 pounds eggplant, cut into 3/4-inch cubes 2 pounds tomatoes, peeled and seeded (or a 1 pound can) 1/2 teaspoon pepper 3 teaspoons salt 1 teaspoon thyme 1/4 cup cooking oil, or more as needed 1 cup grated parmesan and gruyere cheese
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Pat lamb cubes dry with paper towel and saute with 2 tablespoons oil in a heavy casserole over moderate heat until browned. Remove to platter. Repeat browning process with remaining oil and eggplant which has been salted with 2 teaspoons salt and allowed to sit for 1/2 hour. When browned and soft, remove eggplant with slotted spoon.
Return meat to casserole. Add vegetables, remaining salt and spices. Mix gently. Sprinkle with cheese. Place in oven and cook uncovered for 15 to 20 minutes or until lamb is medium. BRAISED LAMB (6 servings) 1 rolled lamb shoulder (about 2 1/2 pounds) or a 2 1/2-pound leg of lamb 2 pounds potatoes 2 pounds eggplant 1 1/2 pounds pearl onions 1/4 cup vegetable oil or clarified butter, or more as needed 1/2 teaspoon thyme 1/2 teaspoon rosemary 1/2 teaspoon sage 3 teaspoons salt, 1 teaspoon pepper 2 tablespoons tomato paste 1/2 cup red wine
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Peel eggplant and potatoes. Cut each into 3/4-inch cubes and keep separate. Put eggplant into bowl with 2 tablespoons of salt and mix. Let sit for 1/2 hour and drain. Pat both eggplant and potatoes dry.
Heat half of oil or clarified butter in heavy casserole just large enough to hold lamb and vegetables comfortably. Brown lamb over moderate heat. Remove to platter.
Brown eggplant, potatoes and onions successively, adding oil or butter as needed, removing vegetables to platter when browned.
Put vegetables, meat, spices, tomato paste and wine into casserole. Cover and put into oven. Cook until meat is medium done (150 degrees when measured with instant thermometer), about 1 hour.