Lamb's delicate but distinctive flavor makes it a signature ingredient in many of the world's cuisines, where every part of the animal is associated with specific traditional dishes. Few Americans are familiar with some of the more exotic cuts, such as lamb breast. It's a relatively tough cut, taken from the animal's chest where the ends of its ribs meet the brisket. Its well-marbled meat is ideal for slow cooking, either by braising or slow-roasting the rolled breast.
Lay the deboned breast on a cutting board and check it carefully for small fragments of bone or gristle left behind by the butcher. Season the surface with salt and pepper, and other flavorings as desired.
Trim the breast into a neat rectangle, laying the trimmed-off pieces on the surface of the breast. Roll the breast into a tight cylinder, tying it tightly with cotton butcher's twine.
Heat a large skillet and sear the rolled lamb breast on all sides, until it's well browned. This step is optional, but it gives the roast a rich and savory flavor.
Preheat your oven to 275 degrees Fahrenheit. Make a mound of coarsely chopped onions, celery and carrots on the bottom of a small roaster or casserole dish, and rest the lamb on top of the aromatic vegetables. Cover the roaster or casserole with its lid or a sheet of heavy aluminum foil.
Roast the lamb for 3 to 4 hours, until the flesh is tender enough for the tines of a fork to slide in easily. Remove the roast from your pan to a serving tray, and cover it loosely with foil. Strain the cooking juices and skim off the fat that rises to the surface; thicken the juices to make a sauce. Serve the lamb and sauce together.
Braising the Breast
Trim away any small pieces of bone or gristle left in the deboned breast, and season it well with salt and pepper or other spices and herbs. Roll the breast into a tight cylinder, tying it in place with cotton butcher's twine.
Heat a large skillet or Dutch oven on your stovetop, and sear the rolled breast until it's well-browned on all sides. Move the lamb to a clean plate, and pour off any excess fat. Deglaze the pan or Dutch oven with a small amount of broth or red wine, stirring vigorously to dissolve all the browned-on juices.
Return the lamb to your Dutch oven, or place it in a casserole dish and pour the pan juices over it. Arrange onions, garlic or other aromatic ingredients around the lamb, as desired. Pour in enough water, broth, wine or other cooking liquid to immerse the rolled shoulder at least halfway.
Cover the lamb and slide it into an oven preheated to 325 F. Leave the breast to simmer gently in its cooking liquids for 3 to 4 hours, or until it's tender enough to easily remove a fragrant mouthful with your fork.
Transfer the lamb to a serving tray and cover it loosely with foil. Strain the cooking liquid from its pan and skim off the fat that floats to the top. Boil the liquid down to half of its original quantity, then thicken it if necessary with a small amount of cornstarch or flour. Serve this sauce with the lamb and your choice of side dishes.
Lamb breast is well-suited to stuffing, since it must be rolled anyway. Fill it with cooked spinach, fresh herbs or your favorite bread- or grain-based stuffing; then prepare it in the same ways as described here. A stuffed breast takes up to an hour longer when slow-roasted, but braising time is approximately the same.
Lamb breast is filled with tough muscles and connective tissues, which will remain inedibly chewy if the roast is cooked to medium-rare. Like shanks, breast must be cooked until very well done for the muscle fibers and connective tissues to soften into a rich, luscious texture.