Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Mixed Feelings (Lollipop Lamb Chops)

This post is also available as an article in the 11/28/2012 Williamsport Sun Gazette.

My sister Kelly and her husband, Jonathan, have excellent taste in cookbooks, so it was exciting to get a new one for my birthday: Barefoot Contessa Foolproof. Reading through it, I was intrigued by what I thought was an unusually high proportion of lamb dishes. I suppose it makes sense, though, as lamb is pretty foolproof.

I've always referred to lamb as "the politically incorrect meat," avoiding it due to the images of fluffy white lambs gamboling in my head. If one is able to overcome such scruples, however, the results are delicious. Lamb has a distinctive, delicate flavor. I've heard some describe it as "gamey," but I think it's certainly a bit more refined than that. The flesh is tender and succulent and has an undeniable underlying sweetness. Perhaps this is how peppermint and lamb became such constant companions, playing the sharp and fresh against the softly sweet.

Sweetly soft
 It's been pointed out to me that I have a grand total of about two recipes that don't involve some sort of fruit, honey, or other sweet accompaniment. Perusing my repertoire, this seems to be true and I apologize, but I suppose I am possessed of an incorrigible sweet tooth. I just feel fruit has so many possibilities: it's sweet and tart and incredibly adaptable. So, while I promise to try to provide more strictly savory offerings in the future, this recipe comes with a sticky, ruby red pomegranate glaze.

The dramatis glazonae
Pomegranates are one of my favorites because they have complexity of both texture and flavor. The jewel-toned arils conceal crunchy seeds beneath their liquid flesh and, while sweet, they carry playful undercurrents of tannic tartness. Moreover, lamb and pomegranate have also long been a traditional pairing, stretching from Iran into the Mediterranean. Spiked with a jolt of red wine, a touch of garlic, and the piney, lemon-bright spiciness of rosemary, these lamb "lollipops" fall right away from the bone, allowing you to get right in on the action.

Glaze in action
Lollipop lamb chops with pomegranate glaze

In reference to lamb ribs, "Frenched" means cutting away the meat extending over the rib bones, this provides clean "handles."

8-rib rack of lamb, sliced into Frenched "lollipops"
2 tbs extra virgin olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced
8 tbs pomegranate jelly
4 tbs red wine or red wine vinegar
1 tsp freshly chopped rosemary
Salt and pepper, to taste

Fresh pomegranate arils, garnish

Preheat a broiler to high. If you have a rack of lamb that hasn't already been sliced to lollipops, simply slide a sharp knife between each rib bone to separate individual medallions.

Arrange the lamb chops on a foiled baking sheet and sprinkle with salt. Allow them to rest as you prepare the glaze to remove the chill from the meat.

Instant aromatics
Warm the oil over medium heat in a small skillet or saucepan, then add the garlic and rosemary and saute until richly fragrant, about 1 minute.

Bubble bubble, toil and trouble
Add the pomegranate jelly and red wine or vinegar and whisk until smooth. Bring the glaze to a boil and simmer, whisking occasionally, until reduced by half, about 10 minutes. Taste and adjust seasonings.

Pour half the glaze into a small bowl and leave the remainder coasting in the warm pan. Brush the lamb chops with pomegranate glaze on both sides.

The glaze thickens quickly, if it's too gelled, just rewarm it slightly
Place the baking sheet in the oven and broil until browned and crusted, 3-6 minutes on each side. 145 degrees F for medium rare or 160 for medium.

Remove the lamb chops from the oven and tent loosely with foil, allowing them to rest for 10 minutes.

Arrange lamb chops on plates or serving dish, drizzle with the remaining glaze, and sprinkle with fresh pomegranate arils. Serves 4.


No comments: