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Braised Lamb Shawarma

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Serves 6

  • by from Fine Cooking
    Issue 122

The components for these scrumptious sandwiches can be prepared ahead, making shawarma easy to assemble for a special lunch or dinner. You can find pomegranate molasses and tahini at a Middle Eastern market (or a well-stocked supermarket). You can make your own flatbread or use one of the other options listed below.

Video: Ana Sortun demonstrates how to make Braised Lamb Shawarma.

For the lamb
  • 4 bone-in lamb shoulder chops (about 10 oz. each)
  • 1 Tbs. vegetable oil; more as needed
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1-1/2 cups dry white wine or water
  • 1 Tbs. ground cumin
  • 4 medium cloves garlic, smashed and peeled
  • 1 large carrot, cut into 1-inch-thick rounds
  • 1 medium white onion, peeled and cut into 8 wedges
  • 2 Tbs. pomegranate molasses
  • 1-1/2 tsp. fresh lemon juice
  • 1 oz. (2 Tbs.) unsalted butter
For the tahini sauce
  • 2 medium cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 Tbs. fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup whole-milk Greek yogurt
  • 1/2 cup tahini
  • 3 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
  • Kosher salt
For the pickled cabbage
  • 1-1/2 tsp. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 cups thinly sliced red cabbage (about 1/4 small cabbage)
  • 1/2 tsp. pomegranate molasses
  • 1 Tbs. sherry vinegar; more as needed
  • 1/4 tsp. granulated sugar; more as needed
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
For assembly
  • 6 9-inch flatbreads, such as yufka, markouk (folded in half), or flour tortillas
Braise the lamb

Position a rack in the center of the oven and heat the oven to 350°F.

Pat the lamb chops dry. Heat the oil in a heavy-duty 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat. Working in 2 batches, cook the lamb chops, flipping once, until well browned on both sides, about 4 minutes total per batch (add more oil for the second batch, if necessary). Season with salt and pepper and transfer to a 9x13-inch roasting pan.

Add 1 cup of the wine to the skillet and bring to a simmer, scraping the skillet with a wooden spatula to loosen any browned bits. Pour the wine over the chops. Sprinkle with the cumin, then add the garlic, carrot, onion, and the remaining 1/2 cup of wine. The liquid should come halfway up the chops; if necessary, add water. Cover the pan with a double thickness of aluminum foil and braise in the oven until the meat is fork-tender, 1-1/2 to 2 hours.

Make the tahini sauce

Meanwhile, combine the garlic and lemon juice in a medium bowl; let sit for 5minutes. Whisk in the yogurt, tahini, olive oil, and 3/4 tsp. salt until smooth. Add 1 to 2 Tbs. water if necessary to achieve a thick yet pourable consistency.

Make the pickled cabbage

Heat the oil in a 10-inch skillet over medium heat. Add the cabbage and cook, stirring occasionally, until just tender, 8 to 10 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in the pomegranate molasses, vinegar, and sugar. Season to taste with salt, pepper, more vinegar, or sugar.

Finish the lamb

Transfer the lamb chops to a cutting board and tent loosely with foil to keep warm. Strain the contents of the roasting pan through a medium-mesh sieve into a medium bowl (you should have about 2 cups liquid); discard the solids. Freeze the liquid until the fat rises to the surface, about 15 minutes, then skim it off and discard it. (Alternatively, use a fat separator.) Transfer the liquid to a 3-quart saucepan. Boil over medium-high heat until reduced by half, about 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, use your fingers to break the lamb into small chunks, discarding the fat and bones.

Whisk the pomegranate molasses, lemon juice, and butter into the braising liquid. Add the lamb and gently toss to coat. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Assemble the shawarma

If you're using store-bought flatbreads (or if you made them ahead), warm the flatbreads in a 12-inch skillet (preferably cast iron) over medium heat. Arrange on a clean work surface. Divide the lamb among the flatbreads, spreading it in a strip about 1 inch from the near edge. Top the lamb with a few tablespoons of the cabbage and sauce. Roll the shawarma up tightly, pulling back on the edge of the bread after folding it over the filling and tucking the filling under with your fingertips, to create a slender, burrito-like wrap. Rest the shawarma on their seam side to keep them closed.

Heat the 12-inch skillet over medium heat. Working in batches, cook the shawarma seam side down until browned and crisp on that side (do not flip), about 3 minutes. Serve.

Make Ahead Tips

The sauce may be made up to 2 days ahead; refrigerate and return to room temperature before using.

The cabbage may be made up to 2 days ahead; refrigerate and return to room temperature before using.

The lamb may be made up to 2 days ahead; refrigerate and gently reheat before using.

Serving Suggestions

Serve with pickles and mezze, such as tabbouleh, fattoush, eggplant dip, or a chickpea salad.

nutrition information (per serving):
Calories (kcal): 760; Fat (g): fat g 44; Fat Calories (kcal): 390; Saturated Fat (g): sat fat g 15; Protein (g): protein g 34; Monounsaturated Fat (g): 20; Carbohydrates (g): carbs g 41; Polyunsaturated Fat (g): 6; Sodium (mg): sodium mg 680; Cholesterol (mg): cholesterol mg 120; Fiber (g): fiber g 3;

Photo: Andrew Purcell

Fantastic! I used a 4# boneless leg of lamb to get 100% yield on the meat. My family LOVED this. I served it in pita, atop a dinner salad (quite colorful) using the thinned-out tahini as a dressing, and lastly on slider buns. The meat freezes beautifully without a loss in quality. And it would not be the same without the pomegranate molasses, so do make the effort to find this ingredient.

I made this and, like everyone else before me that actually cooked it, I thought it was delicious. I made it exactly as written, and I probably wouldn't change anything. However, I found the comment left by Dennis14127 to be quite unhelpful; I use the ratings to determine whether or not others that cooked the dish liked it and I think that rating a recipe poorly simply because one is unaware of the relevance of a particular ingredient (or is unfamiliar with it) does not serve other readers well and unnecessarily distorts the feedback that they may rely on. As it happens, I've discovered that pomegranate molasses are quite commonly used in many dishes from this region and that they are readily and inexpensively available from places like Amazon. Making this without the molasses would detract from its authenticity as well as its flavor.

pomegranate molasses? Give me a break

Delicious! Our daughter ate one and a half wraps and wanted more. While I'd probably use a little less pomegranate molasses in the meat to cut the sweetness a bit, this recipe is fantastic. You can read my full review at Taking On Magazines. http://bit.ly/Z3nfcI

Absolutely delicious and relatively straightforward to make, especially if you prepare components ahead of time. They're more filling then they appear. The lamb was fantastic, but I'll probably substitute another meat in the future to make it easier on the budget.

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