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The lamb is a sheep just one year old or younger that is still too young to have the worked muscles of adolescent hogget or adult mutton. Many prize the shoulder, or forequarter, for being one of the more worked and flavorful, if not the most tender, areas of the lamb, with lightly marbled texture. Many prefer a boneless lamb shoulder, which often comes trimmed of both bone and skin, with a shoulder flap of muscle rolled into a tidy cylindrical roast that can even be stuffed with complementary ingredients like stuffing, pesto or mushrooms.
Shoulder roasts from a lamb typically come in two ways from the butcher. Some are sold as the whole shoulder, untrimmed and deboned. A so-called Saratoga style often requires a butcher to skin, trim, debone, quarter lengthwise, roll and tie the flap of shoulder meat into a roast. Either roast is ready to cook or can be lined with stuffing and rerolled again.
If a recipe calls for stuffing a boneless lamb shoulder that is not broken down and rolled but simply carved from the bone, a rolled roast can be created by cutting the meat lengthwise about a finger's width from all the way through. This results in two halves, which can then be each cut in half again. The meat can be cut as many times as necessary until a flat section of meat has been created.
Many recipes call for some form of stuffing to be smeared on this unrolled roast, which when rolled again and tied will yield a flavorful and aesthetically pleasing piece of meat. Some use a complicated stuffing with ingredients like chopped vegetables, garlic, nuts, bread and herbs. An acceptable alternative are macerated mushrooms sauteed in a wine sauce. Whether stuffing it or not, cooks also regularly dry rub or marinade their roasts with complicated spice blends or marinades to impart distinction to a dish. Many others, however, prefer to prepare boneless lamb shoulder simply with salt, pepper, garlic and maybe some fresh herbs, wine and stock — accentuating the natural flavor of the shoulder.
Since this cut of meat is known for being gamier but not as tender as the loin, cooks often will roast or braise boneless lamb shoulder in an oven. The American Lamb Board recommends a roasting temperature of 325°F (about 163°C) for at least the 30 minutes required for medium rare. The meat's internal temperature should be at least 145°F (about 63°C). Before heading to the oven though, many cooks will give the outside of a boneless lamb shoulder a quick sear in a hot, oiled pan for a slightly charred, finished product. Any marinade that was used makes for a moisture-preserving baste for the meat during the cooking period.
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