Sunday, October 19, 2008

Lamb rib chops with potatoes

I used to make, occasionally, lamb loin chops in a red wine sauce thickened with the meaty umami of a demiglace and the sweetness of butter and shallots. I’d roll long strings of potato dough and cut them into gnocchi, to toss with roasted butternut squash and a brown butter, to soak up the dark sauce pooling under the lamb. It was good on cold nights, on special occasions like birthdays and Valentine’s Day, when the plate served only as a prelude to another more naked intimacy by candlelight.

But that was in the era BC, before child.

Now my lamb chops are quicker, less romantic, less rich, but equally satisfying in their own way—a prelude to a fall walk, bath time, flannel PJs, some serious face time with a book, some Scotch, and an insistent cat. The chops dash into the broiler studded with garlic, the potatoes are roasted wedges, and everything is liberally topped with the Mediterranean standbys of salty olives, sweet tomatoes, and sharp cheese.

And later, if the planets are aligned, if the baby stays asleep, if the candles are still burning on the dinner table long into the evening…

This recipe is a mashup of one from an ancient (1998) Bon App├ętit magazine and my Grassfed Gourmet cookbook. I made it this week with lamb rib chops. But lamb loin chops would be just as good. I broiled them, but a turn on the grill over hardwood charcoal or real wood would be even better.

(Have I mentioned how much I love my CSA? It’s getting serious. Honestly, when I opened my packet of lamb chops, it smelled fresh, herbal, almost cooked. I can be squeamish about meat, after nearly a decade as a 99%-of-the-time vegetarian, but this? This is just straight-up lovely.)

Lamb Chops with Potatoes, Tomatoes, Olives, and Feta (for 2, easily doubled)

The Potatoes

potatoes, as many as as you think you can eat, cut into wedges (2 large russet, a bag of fingerling or Yukon Gold, whatever you like)
olive oil, a couple tablespoons
chopped fresh rosemary
salt, pepper

Preheat oven to 450°F. Toss potatoes on a sheet tray with olive oil, rosemary, salt, and pepper. Roast in the oven until tender and browned, 30–40 minutes. Ten minutes before the potatoes are done, start broiling the lamb.

The Lamb

4 thick lamb chops
2 cloves garlic, cut into slivers or tiny matchsticks
olive oil, salt, and pepper

Use a paring knife to cut a couple narrow, deep incisions into each side of your chops, stuffing them with garlic slivers as you go. Rub the chops on all sides with olive oil and season liberally with salt and pepper. Cook under a hot broiler, about 5 minutes a side for medium rare. (Less for rare—well done is NOT an option here.)

The Rest

scant 1/2 c. halved cherry tomatoes (or chopped tomatoes)
1/3 c. feta cheese, broken into large-ish chunks
1/4 c. chopped black olives (not the Libby kind--Kalamata or other brine-cured. I used our home–salt-cured black olives that mellow in olive oil for months.)

Pile potatoes onto serving platter. Top with broiled lamb chops. Scatter the rest on top.

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