Wednesday, March 6, 2013

A Little Lamb


The other day, my mother-in-law came to our home bearing gifts. As is often the case, the gifts include something sweet for the children and something raw for me to cook. My own mother has also been known to do this; arrive at my home with a large piece of raw meat in hopes that I might roast it up for her. As things go, this is not a bad arrangement. I get some good meat, the Grandmothers get a good feed, and I get the distinct impression that at least two people approve of my cooking.

The gift on this occasion was a whack of lamb loin chops. Not to look a gift horse in the mouth, but this isn't my favourite cut of lamb to cook. It is finicky. I think it gets sold this way more in the interest of sales than enjoyment. A loin chop on a lamb is the equivalent of a T-bone steak from a steer. These chops are cut perpendicularly across the loin and sirloin with a central bone that separates the two muscle types. Here's the problem with these little chops; they are never cut sufficiently thick enough. A proper beef porterhouse steak is thick and allows for a good crust to form on the outside whilst remaining sufficiently rare in the centre. If you've ever cooked a T-bone that was cut two thin (anything thinner than an inch and a half is a problem), the steak will overcook by the time a nice crust has formed on the outside. If you turn the heat up and through pure cooking speed, manage a somewhat pink centre in the eye of the meat, often the meat around the bone is undercooked to raw. This is why the thickness is so important. If I had a choice to cook with lamb, I would cook the loin in its entirety. Or a shoulder. Or a leg. For chops, they would have to be seriously thick to work. Unless you're braising it, lamb should come in large pieces. Anyway, lamb loin chops was what I had to work with. I decided to cook them via the pan to oven method: sear them in the pan then finish them in a medium oven in some kind of semi-liquid medium.

In my case, I seared them, then got them into an oven proof pan. Then I seared off a whole head of garlic in some more oil and got that in the pan, then deglazed the pan with some dry vermouth and got that all in the pan followed by half a cup or so of some lamb stock that I fortuitously had lurking in the deep freeze. A couple of large green and succulent branches of rosemary lent their piny aroma to the dish. This only needed about 10 or 15 minutes in a low oven and then out they come. Remove the chops to rest and reduce the cooking liquor by boiling it hard for about five minutes and then squash in the garlic, pass it through a sieve and that was our gravy: rich and pungent and assured to keep away the vampires. I served the chops with buttery mash potatoes made with my new Swiss-made potato ricer. A roast beet and chevre salad provided some ruby jewels to brighten a meal that threatened to be a study in monochrome brown. A not bad late winter dinner.  

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