Spring Feast

by Craig Goldwyn

"Just a little sheep dip. Panacea for all stomach ailments." Mae West

2010-05-07-sheep_dip_on_grill.jpgIf you say you don't like lamb, you probably really mean you don't like the preparation of lamb you were served. If you have never savored the rich, tender, beefy (never gamey) flavor of a lamb loin chop, you are missing what I consider to be the best nugget of red meat in the world. Period. Really. No cow.

Loin chops are the porterhouse steaks of the lamb, with a T-bone separating the strip steak on one side and the filet mignon on the other. But they are a lot smaller than beef porterhouses. The best, cut 1.5 to 2" thick, are no bigger than a child's fist.

Lamb is a traditional spring dish, and this recipe uses an extremely quick and easy marinade and cooking technique. The marinade, I call it my Sheep Dip, is great on all cuts of lamb including rack, leg, and kabobs. If you don't think you like lamb, try this and you may swear off beef for life. The output is amazingly flavorful and tender and juicy and succulent and...


Serve with another spring dish, grilled asparagus. Asparagus reaches its peak flavor when grilled. Seasoned, grilled, drizzled with good olive oil and balsamic vinegar, and topped with curls of Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, this is by far my favorite prep. Click here for my recipe for grilled asparagus.

Complete the plate with yet another spring treat, new potatoes. Click here for my recipe for a Warm French Potato Salad that is also the World's Easiest Potato Salad.

Finally, a big rich red wine. Break out the good stuff for this dinner.

Grilled Lamb Loin Chops in Sheep Dip Recipe
Yield: 2 servings
Preparing and aging the marinade: 45 minutes.
Marination time: 20 minutes, max. I mean it.
Cooking time: 10-15 minutes, max.

6 lamb loin chops, about 1.5 - 2" thick, enough for two people
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup olive oil
1/8 cup toasted sesame oil
3 tablespoons fresh rosemary, stripped from the stems
6 cloves of fresh garlic, minced or pressed
1/2 teaspoon salt

About the lamb. Loin chops are the most tender and juicy meat on the animal, but the chops are small. Be sure to get them thick. They are at their best when served medium rare.

About the rosemary. If you have fresh rosemary, chop it up so it will ooze it's deliciousness into the marinade. If you use dried rosemary, crush it with a mortar and pestle or grind it between your palms. Alex Sebastian, owner of the famed Wooden Angel restaurant in Beaver, PA, near Pittsburgh, has been seen to serve a fresh sprig of rosemary with his lamb chops and then flagellate them at tableside. That's right, he beats the meat with the rosemary sprig. And it works! The flavorful oils in fresh rosemary are right on the surface and they give the meat a nice lift.

About the sesame oil. Sesame seeds are loaded with oil, and there are two types of sesame oil on the market. I use only one of them, the dark brown oil made from toasted sesame seeds by Kadoya of Japan. There is a clear, cold pressed sesame oil on the market, but it is almost flavorless. Toasted sesame oil, the brown stuff, is the most common, thankfully, and possesses an exotic nutty perfume that we immediately associate with Asian food. Use it sparingly because it is very strong. Most American groceries carry it nowadays, but if will certainly be in any Asian grocery.

Do this
1) Whisk everything but the lamb in a bowl. Let the marinade sit for 30 minutes so the flavors marry.

2) Pour the marinade into non-reactive pan (anything but aluminum or copper) large enough to hold all the meat, but not a lot larger. Then add the chops. Turn them over so all sides are wet, and let them sit for 10 minutes per side. You can crowd them in. Do not marinate any longer than 20 minutes. You will regret it if you do. This meat soaks up the flavor and you don't want to hide the meat's own taste.

2) Get a good hot grill. As hot as you can get it. Grill until about 5 minutes per side, until rare. It's OK if they char a bit, but don't burn and for heaven's sake, do not overcook! Let the hot meat sit for 5 minutes to re-absorb the juices. Serve.

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