By Jessica Roy Spring is the time where we wake up the senses with bright flavors, and welcome the first offerings of the season. One of the ingredients I look forward to most during this time is flavorful, juicy and tender lamb. This meat definitely stands out with its bold earthy taste, so I love to cook the chops simply, and then add a sweet and sprightly pucker with a fresh sauce on the side.
Understandably, it's easy to get overwhelmed in the meat department. For this recipe we are using a rack of lamb, which refers to the center cut of the ribs. The use of the term "lollipops" in the name of the recipe indicates a clean bone holding a tender chop at the end. So ask the butcher for a rack that has been Frenched -- the bones cleaned of fat, sinew and thin strips of meat that may be attached. You'll then cut the rack into individual chops by cutting in between each bone, using it has a handle of sorts. Or just have the butcher cut the chops for you.
My personal preference is for grass-fed Australian lamb. It is naturally a bit leaner than American lamb since it has not been grain fed. However, the earthy, gamey flavor is much more intense. If you like a mellower beef-like flavor with more marbleization, the American option is the choice for you.
Black Pepper Lamb Lollipops with Peach & Shallot Jam
Start with the jam:
1 Tbs. unsalted butter
2 shallots, finely minced
1/4 tsp kosher salt
1 peach, peeled, pit removed and diced into very small pieces (under 1/4 inch)
1 tsp. lemon juice
1/2 cup apple cider
1/2 cup water
Melt the butter in a small saucepan over medium heat. Add the minced shallots and 1/4 tsp. salt and allow to cook for about 2 minutes, until fragrant and tender. Stir in the diced peach, and allow to cook for another 2-3 minutes.
Add the lemon juice, apple cider and water and give a good stir. Bring to a simmer, and allow to cook until liquid has reduced by 1/2 and mixture is thick and syrupy- about 30 minutes.
Note: There will be some texture in the jam due to the diced peaches. If you'd prefer a smooth sauce, simply puree the mixture and strain before serving.
Meanwhile, prep the lamb:
12 lamb chops, trimmed & Frenched
1 clove garlic, pasted or grated
Kosher salt, as desired
Fresh ground black pepper, as needed
Olive oil, as needed
4-5 fresh mint leaves, torn or roughly chopped
Allow the lamb chops to come to room temperature. Rub each chop with a few drops of olive oil, just until slightly shiny. Next, rub each with a little bit of the pasted garlic, and then sprinkle the chops with kosher salt. Follow with a liberal coating of fresh cracked black pepper -- almost double that of the salt.
Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Once the pan is hot, add 1 Tbs. of olive oil and allow to heat through. When the oil is hot, place the chops into the pan making sure they each have their own space and do not touch. Brown each side for 3-4 minutes, or to desired doneness. Remove the chops from the pan, and place on a plate, gently tented with foil. Repeat the process until all chops are cooked.
Serve lamb lollipops with a dollop of peach shallot jam, and a sprinkling of fresh mint over the top.
Jessica Roy is a specialty chef and caterer, food writer and chef instructor, and owner of Shiso Kitchen in Somerville, where she teaches classes. Follow her at http://blogs.lowellsun.com/yourpersonalchef.