Saturday, August 22, 2009

The Ten-Minute Dinner: Grilled Lamb Chops with Sun-Dried Tomato Chimichurri

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There are some dishes that will be delicious no matter what. This is one of them.

Sure, there are a few little tips to make it more delicious, and I suppose you could burn the lamb into a hockey-puck-like state, but, odds are, this one's pretty fool-proof.

Lamb is one of those meats that's plagued with an underrated status in the United States -- a vital part of many cultures' diets, it has a deep, full flavor that so many factory-raised chickens and cows can't provide, a subtle musk that's unfairly maligned and too often dismissed as "an acquired taste." Sure, everyone's had a piece of lamb with a little more funk than they're used to. It happens -- get over it. Don't make that an excuse to miss out on one of the world's great gustatory delights.

To that end, then, a tip on where to find your lamb: Because it's not all that popular on a national level, carrying it can be a hassle for stores; as a result, the prices in supermarkets for lamb can be sky high -- just last week I saw chops like the ones I'm cooking here at nearly twenty dollars per pound. So, rather than get gouged at your local big-box store, search out markets where the supply is high and the price is low; I buy mine from a West Philadelphia Halal butcher for 5.99 per pound. By buying from a smaller butchery that deals with a more lamb-friendly population, you're guaranteeing yourself good turnover (fresher meat), careful butchering (often regulated by religious practice), and a much, much lower price. Go search out those small markets. You'll be glad you did.

Anyway, this week, we're taking some of that gorgeous lamb and dressing it with my own version of the classic Argentine sauce chumichurri. You won't believe how fast and easy this is. Let's get to it.

Lamb Chops with Sun-Dried Tomato Chimichurri
Serves 4

8 Lamb Chops (T-Bone or Rib), trimmed

3 Sun-Dried Tomatoes, reconstituted
1 Tablespoon Red Wine Vinegar
1 teaspoon Pimentón (smoked paprika)
Kosher Salt (about 1 teaspoon, but to taste)
Freshly-Cracked Black Pepper (to taste)
1 Clove Garlic
Zest of one lemon

1/4 Cup Olive Oil

3 Tablespoons Chives (or scallions), chopped

Start by covering your sun-dried tomatoes with boiling water, as seen at the top of this post. This will help to soften and reconstitute them so that they blend more easily into the sauce. Let them soak for five minutes, or until soft.

Next, throw everything but the lamb into your food processor. From the top, clockwise: tomatoes, garlic clove and black pepper, lemon zest, salt, pimentón. The red wine vinegar is on the bottom.

Turn your processor and drizzle the olive oil in slowly to emulsify. If you'd prefer a creamier sauce, feel free to toss an egg yolk in here -- you'll end up with a lovely aioli.

Meanwhile, rub your lamb chops with a little bit more olive oil, and give them a light toss with additional kosher salt and pepper. Get your grill as hot as you can get it (charcoal is better than gas for this, but use what you have on hand), and toss your lamb on.

Cook the lamb until medium rare inside and nicely charred outside, about three minutes per side.

Top the grilled chops with the chimichurri, and garnish with a little extra lemon zest. The final product:

This is truly a delight -- piquant and slightly sour from the tomatoes, rich and buttery from the crispy fat of the lamb and the unctuous olive oil. Each element serves a critical role here; I think the smokiness of the pimentón and the citrusy crack of the lemon zest, in particular, really round out the dish. Give this a try -- after all, dinner could be ready in just ten minutes.

Next week, we'll updating a classic candy into a treat for more mature palates; don't miss it.

Music: Kaoma -- "Lambada"

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