I do, I do, I do, I do love lamb chops. Any time. But I really love them in the summer when you can grill them up in a few minutes time while you make a salad, warm some bread, or grill some veggies, too. For a long time, I’ve been looking at harissa with lamb chops (Tyler Florence has a recipe for it in TYLER’S ULTIMATE), and, you know how it is: You go to cook something you’ve cooked a zillion times (I wish I’d had lamb chops a zillion times.) and you just do it that way for a zillion and one. Another pass by a harissa recipe and I’d put it aside, sighing theatrically. This is getting to be like why I don’t make croissants. (Trust me, just buy them.) Maybe I had no lamb then. Who knows. But this time. This time. I did it. I made the harissa and a little cous cous (redundant, isn’t it?) with sauteed onions and raisins. I stirred up a big pan of eggplant, zucchini, red and yellow peppers and onions. Conjured up a bottle of Australian Shiraz (a mistake, but a good mistake) and off we went. Sounds like a lot of time? 40 minutes tops. I could be dreaming, but it wasn’t too very long. I didn’t time it. Here’s the drill for
Harissa Lamb Chops with CousCous and Sauteed Vegetables serves 4
1. Roast 2 red peppers under the broiler or grill them until they’re blistered. No sunscreen needed. Place them in a bowl and cover with plastic wrap for 10 minutes. Meantime, in a skillet, toast 1 t ea whole cumin, coriander and caraway seeds. Keep the heat low and stir occasionally. When they smell really good, but aren’t burnt, grind them in a coffee grinder you’ve cleaned. Into the food processor, throw in a couple of cloves of chopped garlic (trust me, it won’t get it chopped as finely as you’d like; chop it first), the ground spices, and 1/2 a chopped jalapeno-minus seeds and membranes. This sauce will be medium-hot. If you want it mild, use 1/4 jalapeno. If you want it ha-ha-ha-HOT, use the whole jalapeno. Add a couple of tablespoons of olive oil and a big pinch each salt and pepper. Squeeze in the juice of a whole lemon. Whirr this mixture up really well by pulsing several times. When the peppers are “done,” peel the blistered skins away, rolling them in a big towel and peeling afterward, and throw them in the food processor. Pulse until the vegetables are about like apple sauce. Taste this and decide if you need more salt, more heat, more acid, etc. Adjust accordingly. Set this aside while you grill the chops and fix the rest of the dinner. (Easier: Used jarred peppers and already ground spices. Easiest: you can buy a jar of harissa.)
Just a note on the heat of harissa. I do not like terribly hot things; I’m more interested in spices and flavor. I made my harissa with 1/4 of a jalapeno and, when I tasted it all by itself, it still seemed pretty hot. Once I added it to my chop, however, it tasted much milder. I added Tabasco. So remember that the sauce dumbs down with the meat. Sort of like once you take marinara and put it all over a plate of pasta. You might want to try it out with something else ahead of time.
2. Set the table and light the grill if you haven’t done that yet. Wait while the grill heats (sing your favorite song) or grill the 6-8 lamb chops (Oil, salt and pepper them first.) Throw them on a hot fire to sear for one minute on each side. Remove to spot that’s not so hot or turn down flame and cook for another 3 minutes or so on each side for medium- medium rare. If you want them rare, just cook on a hot fire for 2 minutes on each side. I think lamb is best medium to medium-rare, but you don’t have to trust me. If you want it bloody, have it bloody. Remove chops to a medium-sized platter and cover with foil for five minutes before serving. Have to leave them there for 15 while you cook the sides? Not to worry; they’ll be great at room temp. In fact, they’re damned good stone cold out of the frig tomorrow if you really get involved in something else. You could even throw them in a skillet with your eggs. — Ok, you’re eating them tonight, so just partially uncover so they don’t cook and steam to bits.)
One important thing. If you don’t have friends invited to eat these, you won’t be able to chew the bones. So don’t invite the new boss. Invite people you know and love. The bones are what it’s about.