Lamb chops, whether loin or cutlets, aren't a cheap cut of meat. They are, however, a delicious cut of meat: sweet, tender, and satisfying. It makes them a glorious treat and a dish that I really enjoy cooking. I've refined this method of cooking them over quite some time and while it might seem a bit of a faff, it's not that difficult and it's worth it to do honour to the meat. In terms of cut and portion, I usually allow two chops per person: my father, brother, and I prefer larger loin chops; Ma favours smaller cutlets.
We're very fortunate to live in an area where access to high quality, local meat is easy. The chances that I would have seen the lamb on my plate gallumphing in a field in its lifetime are pretty high. If you can, I would always recommend seeking out well-cared-for, local meat. Or at least use a butcher you trust who can trace his stock.
Now that I'm done with my meat ministrations, we should probably get cooking. (Serves two, expand as required.)
- 4 lamb chops, loin or cutlets, whatever you prefer or can afford
If you have particularly fatty chops, you might wish to trim them a little, but don't get too enthusiastic. The flavour is in the fat and you need it to help keep the meat succulent.
Mix together the marinade and coat the chops with it. Set them aside for at least an hour, but ideally for longer.
When you're ready to cook, heat a little oil or fat in a large, lidded frying pan and stand the chops, fat-side-down, on the base. It'll probably take a little engineering to manage this, but you want to render a little of that fat and then crisp it. It'll take about five minutes and it's definitely worth it. Note that the pan needs to be large enough to accommodate all the chops, lying flat on its base.
Fat-crisped, salt the chops and brown them on both sides, before lowering the flame and putting the lid on the pan. They should cook gently in their own juices over the course of 20 or 25 minutes. I prefer a sliver of pink running through mine, but adjust your cooking time as required. And don't forget to check them periodically to ensure they're not sticking or burning.
You can get on with your vegetables while the chops are doing their thing.
Remove the cooked chops to a warmed plate and cover, either with foil or the lid of the frying pan if it fits.
Back in the meaty pan you should have a decent helping of juices to which you should add a splash of brandy, marsala, or madeira, and let it bubble off the alcohol and then stir in a heaped teaspoon of redcurrant jelly. Test the flavour balance and adjust accordingly. If the gravy is too strong or too thick, some boiling water should remedy that.
You're ready to rock-and-roll. In the winter, we have this with the chops arranged on mashed potato and doused in gravy, and braised red cabbage. Summertime means new potatoes, caramelised shallots, and lemon-butter courgettes. The heavier winter menu will warrant a heavier wine, maybe a Malbec or Barolo. The lighter summer accompaniments deserve an equally lighter touch, for example a Sangiovese. Then all you need to do is enjoy!
Music to cook to: The sport on the radio