Monday, March 20, 2006

Spicey Mint Lamb Chops & Leeks

Ah, Spring on the North Coast: gray, cloudy - much like it's been here all winter. Bah! The sun showed its lovely, if watery, face this afternoon for just a bit before hiding behind more clouds. Grrr! I'm ready for sun. I'm ready for heat. I'm ready for dry ground on which to walk.

Given my general state of grumpiness over the weather, my lamb offering today looks much like I feel - a bit gray, brown and wet! Sorry for the photo. We tried to perk it up but no amount of dithering with camera settings made much of a difference.

You'll just have to take my word for it that these little chops are very tasty. They can be oven broiled, pan seared or outdoor grilled, depending on your fancy and, of course, the weather.

8 lamb loin chops, trimmed of fat
1/4 cup good olive oil
1/4 cup chopped, fresh mint
4-6 cloved garlic, peeled and smashed with the side of a knife
2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground corriander
1/8-1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper, or more or less, depending your taste

Place the garlic and salt in a mortar and grind to a smooth paste. Add the mint and spices and grind until fully incorporated. Slowly pour in the olive oil, grinding with the pestle, until the oil is incorporated and a smooth, spreadable paste is formed.
Spread the mixture over both sides of each lamb chop and let stand at room tempurature for 20 minutes to 1/2 hour.
Broil until each side is browned and crusty and the inside is medium-rare, about 4 minutes per side. Or, in a cast iron skillet over medium-high heat, sear until well browned on each side, no more than 4 minutes per side.
Let chops sit off heat for a few minutes before serving, but don't allow to get cold.

For the leeks, trim the tip of the stem ends and cut the tops off just where the light green part begins to turn dark green. Slice each leek lengthwise about 1/3 of the way through and, under cool running water, clean all the dirt from the layers close to the stem end and as far up as needed.
Slice the leeks all the way through lengthwise and then chop crosswise on an extreme angle into 1/4-inch slices. Place in a large roasting pan that has been drizzled with about a teaspoon of olive oil and spread out on bottom of pan. Sprinkle with Kosher salt and drizzle with a bit more olive oil. Cover with foil and roast in a 375 oven for 10-12 minutes. Remove foil, shake the pan to loosen the leeks and roast for 8-10 minutes more or until soft and slightly browned but not burned.

I had some cremini mushrooms that needed cooking so I sauteed them in olive oil, sprinkled with just a bit of Kosher salt and about 1/4 teaspoon dried thyme. (My fresh thyme is almost non-existent this time of year.) Saute until the mushrooms have given off their liquid. Add a tablespoon of whatever Port you happen to have around and leave on heat, stirring, until the liquid has mostly been absorbed. This was very nice with the chops and leeks.

So there you have my first-day-of-Spring offering. I hope your day was sunny and full of warmth. Just don't tell me about it - I get very grouchy!

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