I chose to serve Kurobuta ham from our friends at Snake River Farms for Easter Sunday at JFAT because ham is so widely acceptable and has been a part of family dinners across the country for decades. But my other favorite dish for Easter is fresh Colorado lamb so I felt compelled to add a post about it as well.
My favorite version is a roast boneless leg that is butterflied, infused with lots of crushed garlic, fresh mint, rosemary and black pepper, then charred on a wood grill, and then covered and finished slowly until just beyond rare. Allowed to sit for 30 minutes out of the oven, the meat slices and eats like butter.
However, many home cooks find this approach to lamb a little too daunting so today I’m going to share one of my simple, quick go-to lamb favorites… grilled lamb chopsicles. I call them chopsicles because I always eat them by grabbing the bone and simply chewing the delicious meat trimmed of all excess fat ahead of time. Yeah, fat means flavor, but I’ll explain more about how and why I trim them later.
For years the vast majority of lamb sold in the US was from either New Zealand or Australia, which to me was one reason why it never became very popular. Not to disparage our friends from down under, but historically they mainly bred for wool… meat quality was secondary. Even still, 80% of the lamb consumed here today is still imported. That’s starting to change now but only after facing stiff competition from what I feel is clearly the best lamb on the planet… Colorado lamb.
The flavor and texture are so much better than anything else I have ever tasted and no matter how you cook a piece of meat, the quality of the meat itself is where you start. And yes, it’s more expensive, but in this case well worth every nickel and it comes with the knowledge that buying Colorado lamb helps save family farms and ranches.
Most likely you will only find Colorado lamb in the higher end markets like Gelson’s, Bristol Farms, or your local specialty market but do yourself a big favor and find it. It normally is available as both a whole rack, which is best for roasting, or cut into individual chops which is what you should look for as we are grilling here. The following recipe calls for a homemade mint chimichurri sauce but if you are pressed for time, as I often am, a great alternative is Crosse & Blackwell’s Mint Sauce that is readily available at most quality markets, and which boasts the inclusion of exotic Egyptian mint leaves. This recipe also isn’t very ‘American’ but one of my go-to fav’s that’s quick and easy that is served with either store-bought hummus or your favorite roasted potatoes and a simple arugula and red onion salad. Hey, at least I’m using American lamb!
Recipe – Grilled Lamb Chopsicles with Mint Chimichurri
Note: Serves 2
» 8 each Lamb Chops
» 1 TBS Olive oil
» 1 TBS Fresh garlic, minced
» 1 TBS Fresh rosemary, minced
» As needed Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
» 1 cup Hummus
» As needed Fresh baby arugula
» 1 each Small red onion
» 1 TBS Toasted pine nuts
» 1 TBS Extra virgin olive oil
» 1 tsp Balsamic vinegar
Ready to trim
The first thing you want to do is to trim the excess fat off the lamb chop bones. This is a technique also known as ‘frenching’. Since we are going to grill these chops over fairly high heat to set a nice crust, we want to remove this fat to as to not cause any ‘flare-up’s when the fat starts to liquefy and melt onto the hot coals below. This creates a bitter, black smoke that will coat the chops which we want to avoid at all costs. (see before and after trimming pics)
Trimming excess fat called ‘Frenching’
You will notice that some of the extra fat around the eye has been trimmed a bit, although not removed altogether. When grilled, this thin layer of fat pretty much melts away and allows you to eat them ‘chopsicle style.’ Next place the chops in a large pan or bowl and add the olive oil, garlic, rosemary and a moderate amount of salt and pepper. Allow to sit for one hour in the fridge. Pull out and allow to sit at room temp 20-25 minutes prior to grilling.
Trimmed and marinated
Meanwhile, fire up the grill and get it good and hot. I like to char them well on all sides while leaving them rare on the inside. This requires constant attention so don’t throw them on the grill and then go inside and make yourself a drink. Make your drink or pour your glass of wine first and take it outside to the grill to keep you company during your soon-to-be diligent efforts to grill these Colorado beauties the way they deserve to be. The chops cook quickly so you should flip them back and forth a couple times to ensure they are equally charred on both sides. Place chops on plate and allow to sit 2-3 minutes.
Resting off the Grill
Toss arugula with onions, pine nuts, olive oil and vinegar and place on plate. Add hummus and then shingle the lamb chops on plate. Pour any accumulated juices from the lamb over top and serve with chimichurri or famous English mint sauce!
Recipe – Mint Chimichurri Sauce
» 1/8 cup Parsley, flat leaf chopped
» 1/8 cup Shallots, minced
» 1/8 cup Seasoned rice wine vinegar
» 2 TBS Garlic, minced
» 1 TBS fresh thyme, chopped
» 1/2 cup Fresh mint, finely chopped
» 1 tsp. Chile Flakes
» 1/4 tsp. Kosher Salt
» 1/4 tsp. Black Pepper, ground
» 1 cups Oil, Olive/ Canola blend
In a stainless steel bowl, mix all of the above ingredients together until smooth. May be used immediately. Keep refrigerated.