I've wanted to write about lamb for the longest time. Though we don't eat much meat around here, lamb is one of my favorites, and several months ago, I treated us to a big package of individually-wrapped grassfed lamb chops. Made two, tucked the rest in the freezer for a special occasion.
Then Friday night rolled around, and we found ourselves with no dinner plans and a fantastic bottle of pinot in need of drinking. It's been a tough month for us, but now it's not July anymore. It's August, we have (less than!) one month left of summer, and I want to drink it from the fire hose, make it last. Who needs a special occasion? Lamb is the special occasion.
We uncorked the pinot around 6. Why wait for dinner to get our weekend started? We sipped as I cooked. D set the table for two. While the spice-rubbed lamb sizzled under the broiler, I cut up a couple nice tomatoes, sliced them into wedges, and dressed them simply with olive oil, maldon salt, and chives. Some green beans went into a big skillet with a bit of diced shallot and some hazelnut picada leftover from a cooking experiment. And then there was the sauce, an effortless mix of beer and dates that reduced to a glaze, the dates sticky and soft, that we used to finish the lamb. I pulled a leftover challah from the freezer, tossed it in the oven, and when it was nice and hot, we sat down to a simple, delicious summer dinner.
If you've got the funds, this is a great dish to make for company. Plan for about 2 chops per person. While it's still warm out, serve with a nice salad and some fresh green or shelling beans. But this dish can carry you right into fall. I'm already looking forward to serving it with mashed sweet potatoes over the holidays. Is it too early to talk about the end of summer? Probably. So pretend I never said anything, and serve these up on the porch, basking in the summer light. Happy August, friends.
Cumin-Rubbed Lamb Chops with DatesInspired by this recipe from Gourmet Live Serves 2
4 individual lamb rib chops 1 teaspoon ground cumin 1 teaspoon ground coriander 4 cloves, ground (or 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves) 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 cup pale or amber beer 1 tablespoon date syrup or brown sugar 8 dates, halved lengthwise and pitted 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
For the lamb chops: Preheat the broiler. Combine cumin, coriander, cloves, and salt in a small bowl. Place chops on a rimmed baking sheet lined with tin foil, and liberally sprinkle both sides of each chop with the spice mix. Transfer chops to the oven and broil for 3-4 minutes on each side; 3 minutes for medium-rare, 4 minutes for medium. They should emerge sizzling.
Meanwhile, make the sauce: Pour the beer into a wide saucepan set over medium heat. Add date syrup or brown sugar and salt. Bring to a boil and cook about 3 minutes. Then add dates in a single layer. Cook the sauce for 3-4 more minutes, watching it carefully to ensure that it doesn't burn. This will depend on the size of your flame, so really do watch it carefully; beer evaporates pretty quickly. By the time the beer has reduced to a glaze, the dates will be soft and sticky. Turn off the heat.
When lamb chops are finished, remove the chops to a plate and pour the accumulated lamb juices into the pan with the glaze. In my case, the chops finished almost exactly when the glaze finished, so I added the juices and cooked the mixture for a couple more minutes, to thicken it a bit. If you like a thinner sauce, no need to continue the cooking. Either way, once you've added the juices, taste the sauce and adjust salt and/or sweetness as necessary. If the mixture is too salty, add a tablespoon or two of water.
To serve: Plate the lamb chops, 2 per person. Drizzle the glaze overtop, and divide dates between the two plates. Serve immediately.
Tips: If the glaze reduces too quickly and the chops aren't ready, add a tablespoon of water to the glaze to give it some more time. If the chops finish too quickly, set them on a plate and tent with foil to keep warm. The chops can also be reheated in a very low (200-degree) oven for 5 minutes prior to serving.