When you're stumped for something easy to toss on the grill, think lamb loin chops.
These chops, not to be confused with the rib chop from the rack of lamb, are the porterhouse steak of the lamb. They even look like a tiny version of the porterhouse because there's a T-shaped bone running down the middle of the chop. On one side of the bone is the fillet; on the other is the loin.
The chops are tiny. Even with the bone, each weighs about 4 ounces and yields about 2 ounces of meat. Because of their size, lamb loin chops are ideal if you're watching portion sizes. They're also ideal for feeding a crowd. You can buy big packages of them at warehouse stores like Sam's Club and Costco.
Lamb loin chops are a bit less expensive than the luxurious rack of lamb. For imported lamb, used in today's recipe, they're about $10 per pound. The rack runs about $15 per pound.
When I recently spotted a package of lamb loin chops at a local Sam's Club, it occurred to me that it had been a while since I'd made them. The chops were nice and plump-looking, about 2 inches thick. Experience has taught me that when cooking loin chops, thicker is better. If the chops are too thin, they easily overcook. Lamb should never be cooked more than medium.
With these chops and with the rib chop, my preferred level of doneness is medium-rare. If I order lamb chops in a restaurant, I ask for medium-rare and more toward the rare side to ensure they are not overdone.
A package of 10 loin chops will easily serve four people. For flavoring, I looked to my herb garden, flourishing with plenty of rosemary, thyme, sage and three half barrels overflowing with basil. Rosemary is a natural choice for lamb, so I chose it along with a bit of thyme. Both these herbs have strong flavors, and a little goes a long way. The herbs went into a basic marinade along with garlic, olive oil, lemon juice, seasonings and some balsamic vinegar.
Because lamb loin chops are small, you can marinate them as little as an hour and up to overnight. I marinated them three hours, which was plenty of time.
When it comes to cooking, the chops cook quickly. Many recipes call for searing them first and then cooking them over lower heat. With today's recipe, I did the opposite: I grilled them over low heat and then gave them a sear over high heat to finish them off. This is commonly referred to as a reverse sear. Some people swear by it. The theory is that the insides of the chops cook more evenly at the lower temperature. In addition, the meat browns better when it's seared at the end of the cooking process.
A reverse sear has cropped up in the last few years as a popular way of cooking steaks. You can think of lamb loin chops as mini porterhouse steaks and cook them to your desired level of doneness, just as you'd cook a steak. (Just don't overcook.) You can even do a fancy porterhouse-like presentation by cutting the meat from the bone and then serving it alongside the bone.
Garlic, Rosemary and Thyme Marinated Lamb Chops
2 pounds lamb loin chops, about 10
4 cloves garlic, peeled, minced
1 heaping tablespoon fresh rosemary
1 tablespoon fresh chopped thyme
1 teaspoon kosher salt
½ teaspoon ground black pepper
Juice of one lemon
½ cup olive oil
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
Rosemary sprigs for garnish
Balsamic glaze, optional
Directions: Place the lamb in a dish. Set aside. In a glass measuring cup, combine the garlic, rosemary, thyme, salt, pepper, lemon juice, olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Whisk to combine.
Pour the marinade over the lamb chops. Turn the chops over to cover them completely. Cover the dish with plastic wrap, refrigerate and marinate at least 3 hours or overnight.
Remove and uncover the lamb about one hour before you are ready to grill.
Preheat the grill to low-medium heat _ about 300 degrees. You are going to cook the chops at low heat first, then sear them over high heat.
Place lamb chops on the grill. Close the lid and grill about 10 minutes or until chops reach an internal temperature of about 110 degrees. Increase the heat on another side of the grill to high. Move the lamb chops over to the hotter side of the grill and sear on each side about 2 minutes, just so you get a nice crust on them. For medium-rare, the internal temperature will be about 130 degrees. Remove from the grill and let rest 5 minutes before serving.
Place the lamb chops on a platter, garnish with rosemary sprigs and serve with optional balsamic glaze.
Source: delishdlites.com, tested by Susan Selasky