When I first wrote about lamb mechoui five years ago, there were only a handful of posts about it on the internet. A recent Google search for lamb+mechoui shows about 30,700 results, including lamb mechoui for Easter and leftover Easter lamb rehashed as a tagine the next day.
I like authenticity, but I know cuisines adapt all the time. Cuisines are like cultures: moving targets. And the fact of the matter is, people immigrate to different countries all the time and they adapt recipes from the homeland to new ingredients and kitchens. They don't starve while waxing nostalgic about authenticity.
My parents left Algeria in the 1960's for Lyon, France where I was born. A few years later they moved to Montmerle-sur-Saône and my Kabyle mother continued to prepare simple, rustic Berber dishes.
For the First Annual Couscous Festival, Ronnie Gilman (my former student and friend) drove all the way to Texas to buy a custom smoker for our whole lamb mechoui. Ronnie is a cowboy. I am Berber. Neither of us doing anything small.
After smoking overnight, the lamb was falling off the bone tender. We served pulled lamb tacos, our version of Tacos Arabes. We sold out of four whole lambs in no time. A few people asked if they could take the roasted heads home for stock.
One of my general assistants hails from Sinaloa, Mexico. He made chicken tagine tamales for his family last Christmas. He reported back that they just loved it. That's how North African cuisine will enter American kitchens, it will be by adapting North African dishes, ingredients, and techniques to existing kitchen grammar.
2-3 Kg leg of lamb* (I cut the end cut off, a whole leg will not fit in my tiny home oven)
1 stick of butter
1 tablespoon of spices . I used a blend of cumin, coriander, fennel and white and red peppercorns
3 sprigs of flat leaf parsely, coarsely chopped
Salt and pepper (don't be afraid of the salt. this is a good sized piece of meat)
2 cloves of garlic minced
1) Preheat oven to 300F
2) Make a paste with the butter, garlic, herbs and spices.
3) Place the lamb in a large roasting pan. Make a dozen or so deep incisions into the leg, Season the lamb with salt and pepper. Stuff some of the seasoned butter into the incisions and pat onto the skin. Add 1 cup of water to the pan.
4) Baste the lamb every 20 minutes or so with olive oil and pan juices. Cook for about 3- 3 1/2 hours
Serve with bread, salad, and harissa.
* You can also use lamb shoulder