Saturday, November 27, 2010

Charmoula Lamb Chops

When I was younger I had a serious love of lamb and duck.  Chicken and beef were fine and all, but somehow I preferred less common variations on the same theme.  As I have grown older I have re-discovered chicken and beef, particularly when cooking for myself at home (partially because they are so much cheaper than the alternatives).  I would say that we make lamb about once every 3-4 months, and the same with duck.  And when we do make lamb, it tends to be ground lamb - perhaps lamb burgers or lamb kebobs.  In the past year I think we have only made lamb chops once and they were shoulder chops for our Indian Lamb Chops with Curried Cauliflower, rather than loin chops or rib chops.  So I guess in another 3-4 months we will attempt some lamb loin chops.  And after today's experiment I am looking forward to the loin chops!

These Charmoula Lamb Chops were delicious.  Charmoula (or chermoula) is a sort of Middle Eastern variation on chimichurri that is used in Moroccan, Algerian and Tunisian cooking.  In this charmoula I used mint, cilantro and parsley in addition to evoo, garlic, shallot and lemon juice, but I have seen other recipes that are vastly different.  I even found a recipe that called for red bell pepper.  But it is my understanding that the common components to any charmoula are herbs, oil, lemon juice and spices.  I love that this charmoula is fresh and flavorful.  It really makes lamb, which can come off as a little heavy and greasy, taste vibrant and fresh.  The only problem is that the chops could have used a hint more char.  That was partially my fault because I was afraid to really turn the heat up without burning the herbs in the marinade or overcooking the lamb, since I prefer it medium-rare.  But a little more char is definitely in order in the future.  A grill would really help with that, but unfortunately I don't have access to one.  I think this dish would be a really nice dinner party entree.  I actually said the same thing about the Rainbow Trout we made last night, but I think this would be even more ideal.  The dish is elegant and refined, as well as delicious. 

Recipe after the jump!

Charmoula Lamb Chops
1 shallot, roughly chopped
1 cup loosely packed cilantro, mint, and flat-leaf parsley
1 garlic clove, roughly chopped
2 tbsp evoo (plus an additional tbsp for cooking the chops)
1 tsp lemon juice
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika
pinch cayenne
6 lamb rib chops, frenched

Blend all ingredients except lamb chops in a blender or mini food-prep until a paste forms, about 1 minute.  Pat chops dry and transfer to a plate, then rub chops all over with 2 tbsp charmoula and marinate, covered, at room temperature for about 30 minutes.

Sprinkle chops with salt.

Heat oil in a 12-inch heavy skillet over moderate heat until hot but not smoking, then brown chops on all sides, 5-6 minutes total for medium-rare.

Transfer to a plate and let stand, loosely covered, 10 minutes.

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