Sunday, May 23, 2010

Consider the Lamb Chop

A lot of people do not like lamb, or at least they believe they don't. Being a girl of Middle Eastern descent, I find this extremely difficult to wrap my mind around, as I know my Armenian-sistah-from-anothah-mothah Alyce would agree. Dude, lamb is delicious.

My theory is that reg'lur 'Merickan folks have all too often been burned by the experience of having lamb over- or undercooked, in both of which cases it is really gross. (I have this exact same theory about another Middle Eastern staple, eggplant; luckily Alyce is on the case with a forthcoming baba ghanoush recipe that should hopefully serve as an eggplant gateway drug.) Overcooked lamb is tough and unpleasantly chewy and loses its flavor; undercooked lamb is just, well, bloody and gross.

But well-cooked lamb is deeply flavorful and exquisitely rich and earthy -- so much so that you can make it with some really simple accompaniments, such as a green veggie and potatoes, and you immediately have a sophisticated and well-balanced meal. (I made steamed asparagus tossed in lemon juice and a splash of olive oil, mashed potatoes with roasted garlic, and a cucumber-feta-tomato salad tossed with balsamic vinegar.) Lamb was also made to pair with a full, likewise earthy red wine. Have I sold you yet? Okay, so here's the way to make the super-simple lamb chops I prepared recently.

For two people, I got four thick lamb loin chops, because they were cheaper per pound than lamb rib chops, which are also delicious. (Lamb is up there in the price range compared to chicken or pork, but again, you can easily make a restaurant-worthy meal with it plus cheap produce-aisle items and, hell, a box of wine if you really want to save some cash.)

Use a paring knife to slice shallow diagonal lines in the fatty edge of each lamb chop about a half inch apart. (This will help the fat render and get a nice crisp on it instead of remaining a blob of fat, possibly another reason people think they dislike lamb now that I think about it.)

Then you marinate the meat, the key step. Mario Batali once told me that people often mistakenly think meat marinades are supposed to be acid-based, but actually they should be oil-based so the meat gets tenderized instead of tough. Granted, he told me this through the TV while I was watching his Food Network show, but still, I've never forgotten it. Anyhoo, with a fork or whisk, mix together about a quarter cup of olive oil, four minced cloves of garlic (figure one for each lamb chop if you want to multiply), a tablespoon of mustard (I like stone-ground Dijon), a sprinkling of dried red pepper flakes, some fresh or dried thyme, and of course salt and pepper.

Marinate your chops in a shallow dish for about an hour, turning them over with a fork as often as you remember to. Do this at room temperature in the kitchen, not in the fridge. C'mon, don't be a wuss. It's fine.

Now, I'm not going to lie: It can be tricky to get lamb chops cooked exactly right, especially thick ones. What I did was to cook the chops in a grill pan until all sides were seared with yummy-looking brown lines (including the fatty part, which I held down to the pan with tongs for maybe 30 seconds in order to get it seared and crispy before cooking the chops on their flat sides) and then stick them in the broiler for about 5 minutes. You could also just broil them in your broiler for about 5 minutes, flip them, and broil about another 5 minutes. Ish.

See, figuring out when a piece of meat is done is something you have to play by ear a bit. With lamb, if you press the chop with your fingers and the meat kind of gives way and is deep red inside, it needs a couple more minutes. But you do want it to be pretty hot-pink inside when served. (Again, don't be a wuss.) Try to err on the side of undercooking rather than overcooking it; as with all red meat, you want to let it rest loosely tented with aluminum foil for at least five if not ten minutes after you take it out of the broiler, and it will keep cooking through.

Even if you consider yourself a lamb hater, I encourage you to try these chops -- and let me know how they turn out.


  1. wholeheartedly agree! lamb is excellent! and not only because it's a total middle eastern stereotype that i enjoy perpetrating! will i make it worse if i also say how much i enjoy a lamb kebab?
    also i love that mario batali talks to you through the tv

  2. Looks like the Armenian contingency is in agreement...

  3. Was there ever any doubt? ;) wdyt of the marinade Steve? I value your opinion on this meaty matter..

  4. Kris and I are doing this TONIGHT.

  5. Good morning,

    I’m an intern with Superior Farms and I noticed your great article on your preparation of lamb! Since you were discussing kebabs, I thought you might be interested in our summer grilling promotion at We’re giving away a Mediterranean cruise for two and promoting simple Mediterranean seasonings for lamb. We are hoping to get more lamb lovers this summer by highlighting delicious recipes and cooking tips. If you have any posts coming up, we would love to hear about them! Also, look for us on Facebook.

    Thank you for your time!


    Lacie Hoffman