Monday, April 04, 2011

Seared Lamb Chops with Preserved Lemon, Artichoke Hearts, Fresh Mint and Feta

After willingly preparing ample stashes of preserved lemons, some folks have wondered what else to do with their bounty. I've mentioned sautéed lima beans and suggested jazzing up greens with garlic. A bracing salad is always a super idea, but people are clamoring for more.

I figured I'd go back to the first time that I remember cooking with preserved lemons. I've eaten plenty of Moroccan food that features their salty tartness, but it wasn't until 2007 that I ever actually cooked with them.

It's all thanks to Nancy Silverton's (of La Brea Bakery, Campanile, Mozza fame) funny little book, A Twist of the Wrist. The subtitle is Quick Flavorful Meals With Ingredients From Jars, Cans, Bags, and Boxes. That entire concept would normally have me running the other direction thinking of some phony-baloney, fly-by-night, Food Network star, but this book is different. Considering all the other wonderful things Silverton has brought to our lives here in Los Angeles, it really isn't much of a surprise.

Silverton focuses on high quality packaged or jarred ingredients and creates meals that even super-foodies will find delicious. A Twist of the Wrist was a huge help when I was working full-time and it still comes in handy when I've been running around with Fe. all day and have not a clue what to cook for supper.

Silverton teaches you how to intelligently stock your pantry for just such occasions. She also asks other chefs like Suzanne Goin, Jonathan Waxman, Mario Batali, and Ruth Reichl to contribute their quick and easy favorites. Dishes like Boneless Pork Chops with Creamy Polenta and Fennel Pollen or Egg Papardelle with Bagna Cauda, Wilted Radicchio and an Olive Oil-Fried Egg do not disappoint.

The recipe that I return to frequently is her Seared Lamb Chops with Preserved Lemon, Artichoke Hearts, and Fresh Mint. It's impressive. I've made it for guests and I've served it for just A. and myself, eating the rest the next day. Everyone likes it.

The flavors are unusual and compelling. The saltiness of the lemon and feta is offset well by the bright and refreshing mint. I tend to go a bit heavier with the herb, usually using a few tablespoons. And when there are plenty of preserved lemons in the fridge, I'll often up the amount to at least half of one.

The lamb gets a coat from a tin of purchased lamb rub. The artichokes hearts are jarred. I've splurged every time I've made this dish, springing for the long stemmed numbers in the deli case at Whole Foods. To me they taste so much better and look far prettier. However your standard marinated artichoke hearts will work well here too.

The dish comes together quickly, although it does require a little bit of concentration. At least, I always find that it does. I like to have my mise en place ready to go. The chops cook quickly because what I believe Silverton calls for is individual rib chops. That is what I used last time and it works. Perhaps slightly more successful, if you really like medium rare chops that have a good sear on them is the double-bone rib chops. Using the double chops of course adds to the cooking time. Not as fast!

After searing the chops, garlic is added and the pan is deglazed with the wine. The artichokes, broth, and lemon are added and cooked together for mere minutes to meld the flavors. The resulting sauce is a bit of a stunner -- tangy, salty, meaty -- dramatically savory.

The presentation is handsome, verging on restaurant good-looks, if you take care with your plating. The sprinkling of mint and feta over the lamb chops, while successfully rounding out the flavors also adds a lot to the visual beauty of the dish.

As Silverton suggests with ingredients like lamb, mint and artichokes, this is a perfect dish for spring. It is also rather perfect for digging deeper into your jar of preserved lemons.

Seared Lamb Chops with Preserved Lemon, Artichoke Hearts, Fresh Mint, and Feta

3 tablespoons lamb rub
16 bone-in lamb chops (about 2 pounds)
1/4 cup canola oil (or other neutral-flavored oil)
3 large garlic cloves, minced (about 1 tablespoon)
1/2 cup dry white wine
1/2 cup vegetable broth
4 whole marinated artichoke hearts, quartered (from the deli case or 2 6 1/2-ounce jars)
1/4 preserved lemon, pulp discarded and skin finely chopped (about 2 teaspoons)
Kosher salt
Lemon for squeezing over the lamb
2 ounces feta (preferably the French brand, Valbreso)
High-quality extra-virgin olive oil, for drizzling
2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh mint leaves

Massage the rub into both sides of the chops.

Heat 2 tablespoons of the canola oil in a large skillet over high heat for 2 to 3 minutes, until almost smoking. The oil should be fragrant at this point. Add half of the chops, reducing the heat to medium. Cook for approximately 2 minutes. Turn the chops over and cook them for 30 seconds for rare or 1 minute for medium-rare. Transfer to a plate. Heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of canola oil and cook the remaining chops in the same manner.

Drain all but 1 teaspoon of the oil from the pan. Add the garlic and swirl the pan away from the heat for about 1 1/2 minutes. Bring the heat to high and add the wine. Simmer for about 2 1/2 minutes, stirring, until the wine has nearly completely evaporated. Add the broth, artichoke hearts and preserved lemon, stir and simmer until the sauce is reduced by a third, approximately 2 minutes. Season with kosher salt, if needed.

Spoon the artichokes and sauce onto four plates. Place four chops onto each plate, fanning them out. Drizzle with the juices from the plate. Squeeze a little bit of lemon juice over the chops. Crumble the feta over and drizzle them with the olive oil. Sprinkle the mint over the dish.

Serves 4

1 comment:

Sarah said...

Very nice post. I've never had anything with preserved lemons, so they totally intimidate me. This looks absolutely amazing though, and the only other recipe from the Nancy Silverton book that I've tried (the bagna cauda with papardelle and fried egg) was spectacular. My problem with buying (or preparing) unusual ingredients is a reluctance to use them up! Silly, but true.