Lamb Ribs with Black Garlic Harissa

Anyone that’s familiar with the deliciousness of merguez (North African lamb sausage) will quickly notice a similarity to these lamb ribs rubbed in black garlic harissa. Merguez is traditionally flavored with harissa, a spicy chili paste. Our recipe is a large-scale version of merguez using lamb ribs that you can share with friends and family.

The delicious, intense flavor of black garlic is best explained as how it would taste if you caramelized roasted garlic 100 times over. Making black garlic harissa starts with aging whole heads of garlic at a controlled temperature and humidity. This causes a Maillard reaction to occur, which is the chemical process that yields new flavor combinations. The result is beautiful black garlic with a mild, sweet and no-heat taste.

Black garlic’s distinctive flavor brings to mind a syrupy taste with rich molasses notes and hints of tamarind and soy sauce. The harissa in this recipe adds the deep, rich, earthy complexity of three Mexican dried chilis. Guajillo chili brings smoky heat, while pasilla chili adds richness and depth to the earthy sweetness of the ancho. These three chilis make up the “holy trinity” for most mole sauces because they help balance each other.

Traditional harissa ingredients like caraway, cumin, coriander, oregano and tomato paste also make an appearance. Our harissa paste brings sweet and spicy together in perfect harmony, pairing wonderfully with slowly roasted lamb.


Day 1: Make the Harissa Rub

Prep Time: 10 to 15 minutes | Cook Time: 20 minutes | Special Equipment: Spice grinder or mortar & pestle, Food processor | Yield: 1/2 cup

Ingredients

  • 4 dried guajillo chiles
  • 3 dried pasilla chiles
  • 3 dried ancho chiles
  • 1 teaspoon caraway seeds, toasted
  • 1/2 teaspoon coriander seeds, toasted
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds, toasted
  • 3 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 2 large heads of black garlic (about 10 to 14 cloves)
  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
  • Hot water, enough to cover the chiles

Step by Step

Prepare the Chiles

  1. Heat a large skillet over medium heat
  2. When the skillet is hot, add all three types of chiles and toast on all sides for three minutes, or until aromatic
  3. Remove the chiles from the pan and allow to cool
  4. Remove the stem ends and shake out the seeds (discard them, unless you like it very spicy)
  5. Place the chilies in a medium bowl and cover with hot water for 15 minutes, or until the chiles are plump and soft
Left to right: Pasilla, Guajillo, Ancho

Assemble the Harissa

  1. In a spice grinder or mortal and pestle, smash the caraway, coriander and cumin seeds until a coarse mixture forms
  2. Drain the chiles, pat them dry and chop them roughly
  3. Place the chiles and the seed mixture into a food processor
  4. Add the black garlic cloves to the food processor as well
  5. Begin to pulse the mixture to break up the paste
  6. Once the mixture is broken up, add the tomato paste, oregano and red wine vinegar
  7. Puree the mixture in the food processor until a thick, uniform paste forms
  8. Transfer the harissa to an airtight container and set aside for at least one day so the flavors can mingle and get to know one another

Farm2ChefsTable Tip: You can also make this recipe in a larger batch and store in an airtight container for up to one month in the refrigerator.

Black Garlic

Day 2: Rub the Lamb Ribs with Black Garlic Harissa

Ingredients

  • 5 lbs. bone-in lamb ribs from a local farmer or butcher, such as Kinderhook Farm or Dashing Star Farm
  • 1/2 cup black garlic harissa
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons kosher salt

Step by Step

  1. Now that the black garlic harissa has sat for at least one day in the fridge, it’s time to smear it all over the lamb ribs
  2. Place the lamb on a cutting board, bone side down, and make 1/4-inch deep score marks on the top of the lamb so the black garlic harissa can penetrate the meat
  3. Season the ribs with salt
  4. Go ahead and smear the black garlic harissa all over the lamb, working it into every nook and cranny
  5. Time is your friend here, so place the ribs on a large plate and refrigerate for 3 days so the flavors can really soak in

Day 5: Slowly Roast the Lamb & Enjoy the Meal!

Cook Time: 3 to 4 hours | Oven Temperature: 300F degrees | Grill Temperature: 450F degrees

Todays the big day! All that prep work and waiting is about to come to fruition with a meal of tasty lamb ribs.

Ingredients

5 lbs. bone-in rubbed lamb ribs (recipe above)

1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

1 cup water

Step by Step

  1. Remove the lamb from the refrigerator and let it come to room temperature for one hour
  2. Preheat the oven to 300 degrees
  3. Place the lamb ribs on a large roasting pan with at least 2 inches of free space on the sides so the hot air reaches the sides of the ribs for even browning
  4. Rub the lamb with 1/4 cup of the extra virgin olive oil
  5. Place the ribs in the oven for two hours, uncovered
  6. Then, cover the pan snuggly with foil to prevent the meat from drying out and cook for 1 to 2 more hours, or until the lamb is tender
  7. When the meat is done cooking, remove it from the oven
  8. Allow the meat to rest for 30 minutes on a large plate to let the juices reabsorb back into the meat
  9. Set aside the pan, leaving most of the pan drippings on the pan for later
  10. Next, fire up your grill (or get the charcoal hot)
  11. Gently place the ribs onto the hot grill and sear
  12. Meanwhile, warm the roasting pan with the pan drippings over medium heat
  13. Once the pan is warm, add 1 cup of water, bring to a boil and scrape the pan to release the pan drippings
  14. Next, turn off the stove burner and add the remaining 1/4 cup of olive oil to the drippings
  15. Brush the pan drippings over the lamb ribs every three minutes until it forms a nice crust
  16. Enjoy with your friends and family!

Farm2ChefsTable Tip: Allowing the meat to come to room temperature helps it cook uniformly. This method is known as tempering.