This is my revisionist version of Paula Wolfert's famous spoon lamb recipe. The original was too labor-intensive for my lazy bones and called for pricey dessert wine, whose flavor I successfully duplicate, for cooking purposes, with white wine, wildflower honey and orange zest. The dish takes one half hour max to put together, then cooks unattended for, truly, seven hours, until it is tender enough to eat with a spoon. It's the perfect no fuss, make-ahead dinner party dish that elicits both sighs and raves. It would make a great alt-Thanksgiving dinner.
This dish yields over 3 cups of rich juices, a kind of concentrated lamb consomme that is a treasure; heat some in a small saucepan and float raviolis or tortellinis in it, for a divine supper. Use it to reheat shredded leftover lamb in the days to follow to forge quick meals: spoon it over crushed new potatoes, use it as a taco filling or toss with cooked pasta, along with some grated Parmigiano Reggiano or Pecorino.
Serves 6 to 8 with leftovers
• One 5 to 6 pound leg of lamb tied (have the butcher trim off the shank bone trimmed) OR a boneless lamb shoulder, about 5 pounds, tied into a compact bundle
• 5 heads garlic
• 1 tablespoon kosher salt
• 1 tablespoon olive oil
• 1/4 cup Cognac or Armagnac
• 1/3 cup dry white wine
• 2 tablespoons wildflower honey
• 1 or 2 strips orange zest
• 2 to 3 sprigs fresh thyme