Zahav is one of the hottest restaurants in Philadelphia right now, and for good reason. They’re putting out some of the best Israeli food this side of the Atlantic. If you can get a reservation, we recommend pre-ordering the lamb shoulder (yes, it must be ordered ahead but it serves a crowd and is well worth the wait). If you can’t make it to Philly or can’t snag a table, we have the next best thing: chef Michael Solomonov’s lamb shoulder recipe from the Zahav cookbook.
THE MEAT: We special order this cut of lamb from our butcher. Ask for a “square-cut lamb shoulder” and you should get a hunk of delicious lamb with tons of marbling in the shape of, you guessed it, a square.
THE METHOD: This recipe is pretty complex, but each step serves a real purpose. The brine will ensure that the meat is flavorful and juicy. The sear on the grill will provide the foundation of a good bark. Slow-smoking the meat will add a layer of smoke and give the layers of fat time to render down and baste the meat as it cooks. And the final blast of heat will give you a bit of a crispy exterior.
THE MEAL: The chickpeas that cook in the liquid alongside the lamb shoulder will make the most amazing, smoky-sweet side. And the reserved pomegranate molasses should be set next to the meat so when you take a helping of the lamb you can drizzle it over the top. Warm pita, pickled onions, hummus and tzatziki are all great sides to serve with the lamb, but it’s good enough that you could eat it all by itself.
Israeli Lamb Shoulder
5-pound square-cut lamb shoulder
2 cups chickpeas
½ cup pomegranate molasses (reserve the rest for serving)
For the brine:
¼ cup kosher salt
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
1 teaspoon black peppercorns
1 teaspoon allspice berries
1 head garlic, cut in half
4 cups pomegranate juice
½ cup sugar
Juice of 1 lemon
Make the pomegranate molasses by combining all ingredients in a saucepan, bringing the contents to a boil and then lowering the temperature to medium low. Allow the liquid to simmer for about 75 minutes, until the liquid becomes syrupy. Covered and refrigerated, the molasses can be stored for at least 2 weeks.
Make the brine by combining all ingredients in a saucepan and bringing to a gentle boil. Once the salt is dissolved, turn off the heat and allow the mixture to come back to room temperature.
Fully submerge the lamb shoulder in the brine and allow to soak in the fridge for 48 hours. Remove from the brine, rinse, pat dry and allow to come to room temperature before cooking.
Set your grill up for direct grilling and set your smoker (or oven) to 300ºF.
Sear the lamb on all sides over the fire until each side begins to brown. Place an aluminum roasting pan on the smoker. Add the lamb to the pan and then add the chickpeas, ½ cup of pomegranate molasses and enough water to cover about half the lamb. Smoke for 5 hours or until fork tender. Raise the temperature of your smoker to 475ºF or turn your oven to the same. Cook the lamb for about 20 more minutes, spooning the pomegranate molasses over the top of the shoulder every few minutes.
Pull the finished lamb like you would a pork shoulder and enjoy!