For a relatively quick weekday meal, or a nice weekend one for that matter, lamb chops are a great choice. The whole thing shouldn't take you more than about 15 minutes to prepare. Add an extra 5 minutes for the side dishes and you've got dinner ready in less than a half an hour.
Utah has excellent lamb, and it's not as expensive as you might think. My nine year old daughter had a hard time with the idea of eating lamb, though. “But DAAAaaad. It's a baby sheep!” Lamb isn't really “baby” sheep. It's more like pre-teen sheep. Think of it as young mutton. It has a lighter flavor than the adult variety, and is quite tender. We don't eat a lot of it, but we do enjoy it on rare occasions.
When I do prepare lamb, I think of family. One of my uncles kept sheep on his farm. If I was visitign at the right time, I could help feed the lambs. He'd fill glass soda bottles with milk, topped with tough rubber nipples, and we'd hold them for the greedy wooly monsters. He'd share some with the meat with my mother from time to time, and I really enjoyed the roasted mutton ribs she'd make. My paternal grandfather was a sheep shearer by trade. Even though I never met him, I can't help but think about them all when I cook lamb.
Lamb can be hard to find in some local groceries, though. To prepare this recipe for you, I went to my the only lamb I found at my grocer was in the form of blade chops. Blade chops are cut closer to the shoulder of the lamb and have a lot of connective tissue. The flavor is quite good, though, and they tend to be less expensive than the traditional loin or rib chop, even though they actually may more meat on them. If you use the lamb blade chop for this recipe, cut the chop in half lengthwise, removing the large band of tough connective tissue that runs through it's center, before cooking.
Large skillet or saute pan
Measuring cups and spoons
8 lamb chops
1 tablespoon cooking oil
1/2 large red onion*, finely chopped
1/3 cup red cooking wine (Marsala) or red grape juice
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon honey
salt to taste
Trim excess fat (and connective tissue) from the lamb chops. Heat the skillet over high heat for two minutes, and add the oil. Grind black pepper over both sides of each chop and place in the hot pan. Do not add salt at this point! The salt will pull the juices out of the lamb and you'll end up with dry lamb. Reduce the heat to medium and saute the lamb for 3 minutes per side for rare lamb. Add two or three minutes cooking time per side if you prefer it well done. Remove from the heat and set aside to rest a bit. You can add a pinch of salt to the lamb before serving, if you want to.
While the lamb chops are resting, add the onion and a pinch of salt to the same pan. Add a little more oil, if you need to. Stir and cook over medium heat for about 4 minutes, until the onion starts to get soft. Add the cooking wine or grape juice, mustard and honey. Mix well. Simmer for 1 or 2 minutes more, until slightly reduced, stirring occasionally. Add salt and pepper to taste.
Serve the lamb and sauce with your favorite vegetable sides. In this case, I served it with asparagus and mashed potatoes.
Serves 4 adults, or two adults and a few children.
If you're using blade chops, you may end up with leftovers as there is more meat on them than a prepared loin chop.
*This recipe calls for red onion because they're milder than their yellow cousins. Yellow onions will work just fine, though. You may want to cook them a little longer in this case. Longer cooking times mellow the onion's flavor.