Good lamb meat is quite pricey, you just don't want to mess it up. Here's how I've learned to cook lamb chops perfectly each and every time, just by minding the clock.
At the farmers market a few years back, I overheard a young couple order a whole hog – tip to tail and “everything but the squeak,” as they say – from a farmer who then raised pasture-grazed pigs. It was a long conversation, whether to take the pig’s feet (the trotters, isn’t that an apt name?!), whether the processor would cure the bacon.
That conversation launched a fascination with whole animals – both cooking whole animals for parties and purchasing a whole animal. I know, I know, to think that for six years, I was a vegetarian, especially since this is in-your-face meat without the modern veil of plastic wrap and pre-marinated convenience.
Here’s what I like about it:
Knowing where and how the animal was raised, fed and yes, butchered
Really good meat, cut and packaged to fit our cooking and eating style
Here’s what’s hard about it:
When it comes to meat, I’ve been a by-the-cookbooks cook sticking to familiar cuts easily found and relatively inexpensive in the grocery store. Dealing with necks and shoulders and other meat cuts, I just don’t know what to do.
So I’ve decided to cook my way through an entire lamb, an entire steer and with any luck, an entire hog. This is a long-term project, one that will take awhile to get right. When I learn something that really works, like the timing for perfectly cooked lamb chops, I'll share the recipe.
PERFECT LAMB CHOPS
Time to table: 45 minutes – several hours
- 4 lamb chops (see TIPS)
- 1/2 cup good red wine or Worcestershire sauce
- 4 cloves garlic, flattened with side of knife
- 1 large sprig fresh rosemary
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- Kosher salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
MARINATE Combine lamb chops, wine, garlic and rosemary in a large plastic bag or a shallow glass or ceramic pan (not metal). Let marinate for one to twelve hours (even 30 minutes makes a big difference), turning occasionally if possible. If cooking in an hour, the meat can marinate on the counter, otherwise, it should marinate in the refrigerator.
BRING TO ROOM TEMPERATURE Drain and discard the marinade. If needed, let lamb chops come to room temperature, about 20 minutes. While meat warms up, preheat oven to 400F.
SEAR In a cast iron or heavy oven-safe skillet, heat olive oil until shimmery. (The skillet is hot enough when water flicked off your fingertips sizzles.)
Sprinkle chops with salt and pepper, both sides. Without crowd and without moving, cook chops for 3 minutes on one side, then 3 minutes on the other. Depending on size and number of chops, you might need to cook these in batches.
BAKE Place chops in the oven and bake for 7 - 8 minutes for rare to medium rare. Watch the meat – thickness, how cooked they got in the skillet, all these will make a difference. But I have to tell you, 3 minutes a side and 7 to 8 minutes, the timing has produced one perfect lamb chop after another.
ALANNA's TIPS Two easy ways to make meat look even more appetizing. First, use a grill pan when searing the meat. Second, put a little "brown" (almost a burn) on the exterior by using a slightly hotter skillet when searing or by putting under the broiler for a minute just before serving.
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