Smothered in sweet blackberry gravy and creamy goat cheese sauce, this whiskey braised lamb shoulder is an impressive dinner for any special occasion.
[Disclaimer: This post is sponsored by Torakand Adventures LLC and is part of a series of recipes developed for the fictional fantasy setting of Lost Colonies, an immersive live-action roleplaying community in the DC, Maryland, and Virginia area. This post also contains affiliate links, and I will earn a commission if you purchase through those links.]
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Whiskey Braised Lamb Shoulder
This recipe for a Whiskey Braised Lamb Shoulder is part of a series of recipes inspired by the fictional cultures and traditions of Lost Colonies, a live action role playing experience based in the DC, Maryland, and Virginia area. (You can learn more about this collaboration in the first post of the series.)
Lamb shoulder is a tough cut of meat, best cooked low and slow. Oven braised in whiskey and beef broth for over an hour, the lamb becomes tender and easily pulled apart with a fork. The drippings are reduced with blackberries into a rich gravy, and paired with a drizzle of tart goat cheese sauce to add depth and dimension to the slow-roasted meat. The sweet brightness of tarragon binds all the aspects of the dish together.
Whiskey Braised Lamb Shoulder over a bed of barley and sweet potato is a beautiful and delicious dinner perfect for any holiday meal or special occasion.
Feasting in Kairn Handia
Foraging in the Sorjfell Mountains is always an adventure. I return from my treks with baskets full of local mushrooms, sweet root vegetables no bigger than my thumbnail, and bitter herbs perfect for herbal tea. One of my favorite finds are the bright red and dark purple bramble berries. Plucked from thorny bushes, they need to be gathered as soon as they ripen, lest local game get at them first. Delicious on their own, bramble berries make a spectacular sauce for whatever meat is on the menu for the evening.
– Excerpt from A Traveler’s Guide to Sobukand by Donla Pheinkuk
Nestled between the rocky slopes of the Sorjfell Mountains, Kairn Handia stands as the one and only city of this fictional region in Sobukand. For outsiders, the land may seem harsh. The mountainous terrain makes for difficult living, and homesteads made of strong family units are spread out in clusters, wherever a small garden can be planted and cared for. Root vegetables, wild berries, and hearty grains like barley are used in much of the cooking and sheep and goats live well off the land, providing both meat and milk to the dinner table. Some even keep great hawks and falcons to hunt small game in the mountain ranges, and the best trainers are known to compete in friendly competitions to show off their avian companions’ skills.
With these characteristics in mind, I drew inspiration from similar terrains in the real world where foraging is more prevalent than farming, and goats the primary livestock, such as the harsh mountainous regions of Tibet and Nepal and the less populated areas of the northern Scottish Highlands. Because goats and sheep would be so important to such a community, braised lamb with a goat cheese sauce seemed like an appropriate celebratory meal.
As to the other ingredients, blackberry brambles are notoriously good at surviving even in poor soil, so I knew such a fruit would be an appropriate addition to the otherwise traditional European gravy. And of course, people of every time period have distilled whiskey from their local grains, so it seemed a natural inclusion. You can, of course, substitute more beef broth if you wish to omit the liquor.
Whiskey Braised Lamb with Blackberries & Goat Cheese Sauce
Whiskey Braised Lamb Shoulder & Gravy
- 2 pounds boneless lamb shoulder
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 small onions, sliced
- 1 tablespoon coarse salt
- 1 tablespoon black pepper
- 1 cup whiskey
- ½ cup beef broth
- 2 bay leaves
- 2 cups blackberries, divided
- 5 twigs fresh tarragon
- 2 tablespoons flour
Barley & Sweet Potato Medley
- 1 1/3 cup beef broth
- ¾ cups barley
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 2 cups sweet potatoes, diced small
- ½ teaspoons dried thyme
- ¼ teaspoons paprika
- ½ teaspoon salt
Goat Cheese Sauce
- ½ cup beef broth
- ¼ cup low fat Greek yogurt
- 1 tablespoon honey
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- 5 ounces creamy goat cheese
- 1 tablespoon fresh tarragon, chopped
Braise the lamb:
- Heat the oven to 325 degrees F and let the lamb sit out for about 20 minutes, to remove the chill. In a large dutch oven, heat the olive oil and add the onion. Saute 3-5 minutes, until soft. Rub the lamb shoulder down with the salt and pepper. In the dutch oven with the onions, brown the lamb on all sides, about 8-10 minutes. Remove the lamb and set it aside for now.
- Deglaze the bottom of the dutch oven with the whiskey and scrape up any browned bits. Reduce the whiskey by half. Add the beef broth, bay leaves, and two cups blackberries to the pot and bring to a simmer. Add back in the seared lamb shoulder and tuck the tarragon around the meat. Cover and transfer the pot to the oven and braise the lamb until fork-tender, about 1 ½ to 2 hours. When cooked through, transfer the lamb to a cutting board to rest.
Reduce the blackberry gravy:
- Strain the liquid from the dutch oven and return it to the dutch oven. Discard the solids. Bring the mixture to a boil over medium high heat, and then add in the remaining half cup blackberries. Reduce the heat to a simmer for 20-30 minutes.
- Mash the berries in the pot and stir in the flour to thicken. Set aside and keep warm.
Make the barley & sweet potato medley:
- While the lamb is braising, combine the beef broth and the barley together in a sauce pan and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low, cover, and cook for 12-15 minutes, until tender. Let stand 5 minutes, and then drain out any excess water.
- At the same time, melt the butter in a large pan over medium heat. Add the diced sweet potatoes, thyme, paprika, and salt and saute 10-15 minutes until tender. Add the cooked barley to the pan and toss the ingredients together until combined and cooked through. Remove from heat and keep warm.
Make the goat cheese sauce:
- Heat the beef broth in a saute pan until it simmers. Whisk in the yogurt, honey, salt, and pepper, and then add the goat cheese. Let it melt, and whisk into the mixture. Stir in the fresh tarragon and set the sauce aside. It does not have to keep warm – room temperature is fine.
- Slice the lamb shoulder and serve alongside the barley medley, topped with blackberry gravy and a spoonful of goat cheese sauce. Enjoy!