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Peter Hoffman believes in eating with your hands so much, his menu at Back Forty West in Manhattan has a section called “Hands.” When he makes his sensational harissa-coated lamb—meant to be torn apart and eaten in flatbread or lettuce wraps—he roasts it slowly for 10 hours. In this quicker version, the lamb cooks at higher heat for half the time: five hours. It’s still falling-apart tender. Slideshow: Wine Pairings for Lamb 

November 2012


Credit: © Antonis Achilleos

Recipe Summary test

30 mins
8 hrs


Ingredient Checklist


Instructions Checklist
  • In a spice grinder, finely grind the caraway, coriander and cumin seeds. In a microwave-safe bowl, cover the ancho chiles with water and microwave at high power for 2 minutes. Let cool slightly, then transfer the softened chiles and 2 tablespoons of the soaking liquid to a blender. Add the ground spices, paprika, lemon juice, the 2 whole garlic cloves, 2 tablespoons of the olive oil and 1 tablespoon of salt. Puree the harissa until smooth.

  • Set the lamb in a medium roasting pan and rub 1/2 cup of the harissa all over the meat; let stand at room temperature for 2 hours or refrigerate overnight.

  • Preheat the oven to 325°. Add 1/2 cup of water to the roasting pan and cover the pan loosely with foil. Roast the lamb for 2 1/2 hours, adding water to the pan a few times to prevent scorching. Remove the foil and roast for about 2 1/2 hours longer, until the lamb is very brown and tender; occasionally spoon the pan juices on top. Let stand for 20 minutes.

  • Meanwhile, in a small bowl, combine the yogurt with the cilantro, mashed garlic clove and the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Season with salt and pepper.

  • Using forks or tongs, pull the lamb off the bone in large chunks. Using your fingers, pull the meat into smaller shreds and serve with the yogurt sauce, lettuce leaves, naan and the remaining harissa.

Make Ahead

The harissa can be refrigerated for up to 1 week. The whole roasted lamb shoulder can be refrigerated overnight; rewarm before serving.

Suggested Pairing

Smooth, red-berried Shiraz.