One thing I am realizing about going a long time without eating meat (15 years) followed by a relatively short time eating as a moderately enthusiastic meat eater (5 years and change) is that it doesn’t always occur to you to include it in meals. In fact, I have apparently only made four dishes on the site this year that include meat, and two were briskets for big dinner parties. With a fridge bursting (literally; if you can find room for a jar of mayo in there, you’d be my hero) with spinach and scallions, radishes, real baby carrots, sugar snaps, shelling peas and tiny freshly-dug red potatoes rolling off the top, I can hardly imagine why I’d need to roast a chicken. But when I was going through my (very, very, very long) list of Recipes I Want To Try last week, these lamb chops jumped out at me, promising to at least temporarily break me out of my asparagus — hashed! ribboned! tossed with pasta for one! — rut.
There were three big sells on this recipe for me, the first being Anne Burrell: I love everything she cooks. The second was that these chops are entirely in the kitchen and I had no idea you could make great lamb chops without a grill. Related, reason three is that, I only recently discovered that I like, nay, love lamb chops. Adore them. In fact, I think my enjoyment of lamb chops — versus dabbling in ribs or a vague appreciation of steak — is pretty much the only thing that makes me a “real” meat eater these days, which I define as liking the taste of something so much, you’d even enjoy it plainly, just salt and pepper on a grill. That’s love, right?
Fortunately, this recipe has a little fun with them, smearing them, once browned, with a olive-pistachio-lemon zest and garlic tapenade that you can whiz up in no time in a food processor. Chops are browned for two minutes on each side in a pan, slathered with the tapenade and baked for five minutes to utter lamb perfection — the whole dish can literally be pulled off in 30 minutes, leaving time for the important stuff, like sitting in the grass, and pondering how your thighs got so awesome. What, you don’t do that too?
Lamb Chops with Pistachio Tapenade
Barely tweaked from Anne Burrell
1/2 cup pistachios, shelled and toasted
1/2 cup pitted green (what I used) or Cerignola (what Burrell recommends) olives
2 tablespoons capers
1 clove garlic, smashed
1 tablespoon freshly chopped oregano leaves (nixed because mine had gone bad)
2 tablespoons freshly chopped parsley leaves
Extra-virgin olive oil
1 lemon, zested
1 (8-rib) rack of lamb or 6 lamb chops
Freshly ground black pepper*
To make the pistachio tapenade: In a food processor combine the pistachios, olives, capers, garlic, herbs and puree. While the machine is running, slowly drizzle in olive oil until the mixture becomes a paste. Add the zest and pulse 1 more time, drizzling in more oil if necessary. Reserve until ready to use.
If using a rack of ribs: Remove 2 rib bones from the 8 rib rack to make it a 6-rib rack. Counting from either end, remove the 2nd and 7th bones; this will create 6 even chops that are thicker than a normal lamb chop. Cut 6 even chops.
Cook your chops: Season your six lamb chops generously on either side with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Allow them to sit for 10 to 15 minutes before cooking.
Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Coat a large saute pan generously with olive oil and bring to medium-high heat. When the oil is hot but not smoking, add the lamb chops and cook for about 2 minutes on each side to brown. If the pan begins to smoke, lower the heat. The chops should be beautifully caramelized on both sides. Remove the chops to a sheet pan and schmear generously with the pistachio tapenade. Place in preheated oven and cook another 4 to 5 minutes for medium rare. Remove chops from oven and let rest for at least 5 minutes before serving.
* My addition. Does anyone know why not a single Anne Burrell recipe calls for black pepper, only salt? I would love to hear your theories!