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October 23, 2013

Spring Down Under

Pan Roasted Lamb Chops
Mr. B's no doctor, but I think he may be right in his diagnosis--I do have an advanced palate. At first read that may seem as if I'm trying to pass myself off as some highfalutin foodie, but that's not the case. My advanced palate just means that I like things that are, well, let's just say, more flavorful.

Somewhere along the way, I developed a taste for strong flavors. I like wine that has a gamy, mineral, almost metallic blood flavor, a profile that not everyone would enjoy. The same goes for cheese--if it's almost a shade too far aged, I find the complexity of flavors--and smells--addictive. So, it shouldn't be any wonder that I love lamb--but only if that grassy, fresh, gamy flavor hasn't been tamed.

Unfortunately, American lamb--bought in the local grocery store--has virtually no flavor. It seems that it has become the norm for lamb producers to produce meat that is mild, and in my opinion, completely devoid of the characteristics that make lamb so tasty. I'm not sure why anyone would want to eat lamb that didn't taste like lamb, but apparently there's a market for it.

Which brings me to the next point--lamb is seasonal and meant to be eaten in the spring. The grassy, herbal flavor in lamb comes from the lamb's diet. Lambs are ruminants, but unlike cows that primarily graze on lower quality grasses, lambs not only graze, but forage, and browse. This means that they eat a variety of lovely spring grasses, herbs, and plants that lend flavor to their flesh.

In the spring, I can always find good local lamb that meets my criteria for the right mix of aromatic flavors, but other than that, lamb isn't a regular feature on our menu. However, every once in awhile I come across beautiful Australian or New Zealand lamb that's worth a try. So, the other night when I chanced upon a package of fat lamb chops, I couldn't wait to pass them off to Mr. B to work his magic. The result: pan seared lamb chops, with crisped potatoes--fried in lamb fat--with aromatic rosemary and garlic. And the flavor--perfectly gamy, fresh, and grassy, because after all, while we're moving into late fall, it's spring down under.

Mr. B's Pan Seared Lamb Chops

4 3 inch thick lamb chops, fat scored
1 large Russet potato, scrubbed and medium diced
1 toe of garlic, peeled and pressed
4 stems of rosemary, stemmed; needles coarsely minced
olive oil
salt and pepper

1. Toss potatoes in olive oil and spread out on a cookie sheet. Bake in a 375 degree oven until just turning golden. Remove from pan from the oven and set aside.
2. Increase oven temperature to 425 degrees.
3. Season lamb chops with salt and pepper.
4. Heat a heavy cast iron skillet over high heat and add lamb chops, fat side down; sear until the chops are brown and the fat is rendered. Turn off the flame.
5. Remove lamb chops from pan and add potatoes; toss to coat with the lamb fat. Place lamb chops on top of the potatoes and scatter rosemary on top.
6. Place pan in hot oven and cook lamb until desired temperature, using a meat thermometer.
7. Remove pan from oven and allow the meat to rest for 5 minutes.
8. To serve, place lamb chops on warm plates with potatoes; spoon lamb juices over the chops. Serve with crusty bread and lightly dressed greens.

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